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INDIVIDUALISM AND SOCIETY April 14, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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The relationship between neo-liberalism and neo-conservativism is puzzling. Such a relationship between these doctrines did not exist in the Nineteenth Century.


Margaret Thatcher seems to have been the embodiment of both political philosophies. We are told, “Margaret Thatcher used her popularity from the Falkland’s War to push right-wing economic policies and increase economic inequality”. At Real News, Shir Hever describes the doctrinal alliance:

This account refers to Thatcher’s memorable quote in relation to there is “no such thing as society”. Never mind that in the same Woman’s Day interview she contradicted herself. In speaking about education she said:

And also, you know, in the days where there was no television, you used to bring your fellow children home. “Come to tea with us today!” or you went to tea with someone else. A lot of it obviously still goes on, particularly in smaller towns, but I think that children, young people, today are longing for some standards by which to live. You have got to have rules by which to live. If you live totally isolated and alone like Diogenes in the tub, maybe it does not mind (sic) but the moment you live in a community, you have got to have some rules by which to live. You have got to say: “These are the rules and we have to live by them!” Of course they will be broken from time to time, but that is quite different from there not being any rules. I mean, you could not begin to play any of the games—this is how I want mostly to explain this to children—how could you play a game unless there were certain rules to it? Our life is more important than the game. There are certain rules by which to live, and I think they want them and I think they want objective rules as they get older. Yes, they will break them, but the business of life is that everyone accepts that there are certain things which are done, certain things which you should think[fo 27] about, certain courtesies, certain conventions, certain generosities to other people.

And then she famously said, as referred to above:

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and[fo 29] there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate—“It is all right. We joined together and we have these insurance schemes to look after it”. That was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system and so some of those help and benefits that were meant to say to people: “All right, if you cannot get a job, you shall have a basic standard of living!” but when people come and say: “But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!” You say: “Look” It is not from the dole. It is your neighbour who is supplying it and if you can earn your own living then really you have a duty to do it and you will feel very much better!”

There is a self-righteousness about her views,without consideration of the what the implications of the policy she proposes will have on the people that are the object of it. It is interesting to me that she declares there is nothing wrong with wanting more money. She does not even entertain the idea of what it might mean to inherent a significant amount of money.

These statements of Margaret Thatcher’s came to mind when I read the following judgement of an historian, the type of generalization that is made in general histories:

Most of the barbarian tribes had already been deeply influenced by contact with Rome before they entered the empire, and it is often difficult to differentiate what is of Germanic and what is of Roman origin. Perhaps the most striking difference of outlook, however, was the inability of the Germans to think in abstract terms. Notions of authority or society meant very little to them as such: they could only comprehend when they were viewed in terms of specific personal relationships. This helps to explain the importance of two matters essential to understanding the outlook of these barbarians and their descendants, the importance among them of kindred and their idea of lordship.

( p10  – Maurice Keen, A History of Medieval Europe,Routledge and Kegan, 1967)

Their notions of reciprocity may meet approval. The tribal people of Northern Europe and of the Arabian Peninsula were not different in this regard. They knew their second cousins, and most people they knew had some family relationship with them. Vendettas were not the best method for keeping order in large villages or small trading towns, as for example Medina had become by the seventh century. Then there is the personal and sociological transformation brought about by the transition from polytheism to monotheism.

So what I was trying to suggest the neo-conservatism was a form of social regression.Of course, when we change the frame of reference to that of global inequality, it is those of us living in the modern West who might be subject to the accusation of violence. One imagines that Tony Abbott will in course become PM, and attempt to follow in the footsteps along the path pursued by Mrs Thatcher. We have been warmed. It will be vicious and miserable. That is the way it should be sinners. The fact that Tony is a Catholic, not a Methodist, may make a difference.

And back to PM Thatcher. Here she defends her order to sink the Belgrano. She says the facts of the case should be now available, thirty years later. Her questioner is very persistent. Was Thatcher ever held accountable?

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