« The benign deficit | Main | On confined expertise »

September 29, 2015


Joe Otten

I think Janan Ganesh's point is not that everyone is so comfortable, but that the Corbyn phenomenon is an expression and a creature of the comfortable.


In either event I'm not convinced. Corbyn won the votes of union members as well as full party and £3 members. That will have included a substantial number of workers actively signed up to fighting to improve their circumstances. John McDonnell's background isn't exactly comfortable either. In any case this is a mantra recited by right-wingers, a kind of ad hominem sub-argument that lacks much in the way of consequence. British working class politics has its radical traditions as well as various opposing trends (Toryism, notably but not exclusively in the Midlands), just as the middle class has too. So what? Do you want politics to be ghettoised?


Perhaps many comfortably off middle-class types can also see that if the current policies are continued, there is very little chance that their children will be comfortably off middle-class types when they grow up.

gastro george

Ganesh needs to get out a bit more.

gastro george

Or to put it more bluntly, he's basically insulting the growing sections of society that are struggling.


"One reason for this is that the moderately well-off feel a greater sense of grievance at inequality. It is people on £40-50,000 a year who are excluded from the London housing market by gentrification. And, being sociologically indistinguishable from them, they are more apt to envy (perhaps wrongly) the 1%; it is the classmate who's done slightly better for himself that we envy more than the Queen."

Absolutely. And not just sociologically indistinguishable but also educationally.

Perhaps less generously, I would be inclined to shorten this to "people who seem to have chosen poorly, now think the game must have been rigged".

As Joe points out above, there are some who suspect it's their own emergent inequality with the corporate drones that really bothers them. Hence their ability to be shocked at inequality will remaining resolutely unmoved by genuine reductions in real poverty, in each case, delivered by global markets.

gastro george


"I would be inclined to shorten this to "people who seem to have chosen poorly, now think the game must have been rigged"."

I think you should get out more as well, and talk to some of the precariat. Do you think they have such "choices"?

There are a nice set of signifiers here, which are being undermined by the kind of politics that Corbyn represents. Essentially, the precariat don't count, because they don't vote, and why would they because none of the parties represented them.

Now, apparently, the rise of Corbyn is not due to the possibility that different (insignificant) voices might get a hearing. Instead it's because the middle classes are being indulgent. Because it's only middle class voices that are significant.



@gastro george
"growing sections of society that are struggling."

I know this has all the hallmarks of trolling but I'm serious. JC has inspired me to revisit some of my old assumptions about inequality, etc. But here's the problem - I cant find the data that supports your statement about growing poverty/inequality. There are 4-5 different definitions of Gini (before/after housing costs, etc) but they all seem to be basically flat for the last quarter century (see link below).

Am I missing some data? data with sources particularly welcome.


Igor Belanov

A lot of the young people who have supported Corbyn are effectively part of the precariat, university degree or not. They often enjoy the privileges of low wages, temporary employment and over-expensive, poorly endowed rented housing. These type of well educated, understimulated and downwardly mobile people should be giving the establishment some cause for concern.


Chris I clicked on the SMF link you provided and it does not support your assertion that "for many poor working families, incomes will fall a lot".
Even the headline of the SMF piece ("Will the new Living Wage make up for the cuts to Tax Credits? Yes and No") tells us its a lot more delicately balanced than that. Indeed my 20 minute review of your links seems to tell me:
- There is a dip of £500-£1k pa for most scenarios in year one when the reduction in tax credits exceeds the benefit of the LW.
- There is a raise of £100-£1k pa for most scenarios from years 2 onwards as the full effects of LW kick in.

That's not perfect timing, but its not incomes falling by a lot either.


Well, you know what Khrushchev said to Hoxha - and what Hoxha replied.



Your point about bad choices is one I hear often. The poor are poor because they made a bad choice.

The difference between a poor man making a bad choice and the rich man are huge. A young person with connections makes a bad choice and it's just that, a bad choice, it doesn't destroy his life. A member of the establishment, makes a bad chick and suddenly even the PM believes "everyone deserves a second chance", even a job in Number 10. A comfortable sitting man who makes a bad investment has a chance to ale another investment. A poor kid has to make very few "bad choices" or they''ll blight the rest of his life.When a person has very little to begin with bad. Choices have a disproportionate effect on your life. Only the comfortable can "make a bad choice" and it just be fOrgiven as that.

I'm not saying this is what your saying it just an injustice I've noticed.


@Gary - the fact that £1000 isn't much for you says a lot about where your analysis is rooted. You may need to rethink your assumptions.

gastro george

@gary Food banks? Just as an example.

gastro george

Or for statistics, I think the IFS (which Chris refers to) have done a pretty comprehensive analysis - more so than Fraser Nelson's cherry picking.


@Peter: You got it. When the rich seize control, they force the body politic to devour itself from the feet up. Of course, once enough of the productive part of the economy is consumed, the body can no longer sustain itself...

But hey, the wealthy had the best cabins on the Titanic. Now if only there was another ship to come along when the global economy tanks.



All this talk about needing to meet the "precariat"* and understand their choices is making the same error as Chris: we are talking about the pro forma and motives of Corbyn's supporters (comfortable but envious) and not the existence or otherwise of the "precariat".

* good word.

* good word.


Emma Jayne

"I'm not saying this is what your saying"


Peter K.

He says the stakes are low and that the technocracy has things at hand?

Did he forget about the epic housing bubble and financial crisis?

I think voters go with the right when they're feeling overconfident and content. They go with the left when things need cleaning up.

Roger Gathman

This is what happens when we pretend leftist movements are about poor people. They are not - they are about the working class. Basically, the leftist program - as per Karl Polanyi - of social insurance and an active state were only peripherally about helping the poorest. They were, and still are, the structure that has constituted the middle class. The right wing and third way slight of hand is to identify leftist politics with helping the poor, thus allowing us to ignore the spiraling power of the wealthiest. It kicks to the curb equality, for after all, once the poor are comfortable, what could possibly be their beef? The beef is simple - invest all power in the wealthiest and the working class will see its incomes stagnate and its lifestyle deteriorate - and will only be able to catch up by going massively in debt.
As long ago as 1842, Karl Marx rejected the "poor" as a class description, since it only describes a static monetary relation - it doesn't describe a dynamic. The rightwing version of what the left is about has flourished to the extent that all popular media now accept it. Its bogus, though. Completely. Through and through.


Ganesh seems to be completely unfamiliar with the concepts of empathy and prediction. He can only imagine people reacting to their own direct and immediate circumstances. Most people actually are capable of watching other people and recognizing their situations and anticipating the future based on observed events. (Granted, economists and philosophers are particularly bad at the latter.)

As a friend of mine predicted back in the 1980s, the baby boomers are eating their young. All the ladders have been pulled up, the perches dynamited and the safety nets burned. As one who has been following the class war since at the least the 1970s, I'm amazed that it has taken this long for some reaction by the losing side.


Gary, gini is a scam. It measures total inequality.
The 1% are better off but the difference between the poor and middle class has fallen.
But overall this is a "reduction"

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad