Jason Cowley laments the lack today of literary figures who can write seriously about politics.
I don't think this absence is wholly to be regretted; fine writing can easily become mere egomaniac poncery. But there is, I suspect, one reason for it which is largely overlooked. It's that the political enemies today are invisible ones, which don't lend themselves easily to cultural depiction.
To see my point, contrast the (rationalized) Thatcherite analysis of the UK's problems in the 70s and 80s to now. Back then, the "enemy within" was in plain sight. It was unions. Smash these, it was thought, and you'll increase profit margins and management's "right to manage", and this will increase business confidence and hence investment. This worked, sort of, at least for a while.
Today, though, we can't blame a bogeyman for our economic problems. The lack of investment opportunities, slowdown (pdf) in technical progress, collapse in demand for unskilled labour, inability of capitalism to create full and meaningful work, and ideologies that sustain managerialism and inequality are all impersonal problems. You can't solve them by defeating a visible enemy.
In this context, it's no surprise that literature and culture generally have become disengaged from politics. It's possible to make good art about corruption, racism, warmongering or recession. But try doing so about the investment dearth.
Herein, though, lies a problem. Very many people active in politics don't get this. They are still trying to fight a bogeyman - be it immigrants, "scroungers", greedy bankers, or tax-dodging companies. In this sense, it's not just literary figures who are unable to address our political-economic problems. Political figures can't do so either.