an elegant drive through the covers of Renewal

Does anyone actually imagine that Blairites are interested in the ideas of Amartya Sen? I ask chiefly for information.

After all, they often do things that look superficially like engaging intellectually with new ideas from the Left; writing articles about Sen or Etzioni or whoever in journals like Progress or Renewal, taking part in seminars at the IPPR or RSA. But then, you look at the outputs, both in terms of policy and of rhetoric. There’s clearly a big gap here. Do they really think about Sen and decide to let bouncers in Norwich collect fines? Surely no process of cogitation, however twisted, would come up with this stuff? It’s obvious that there must be some other level of thought that determines their actions.

There is of course an alternative explanation. What if the whole fuss was entirely divorced from the content of politics? What if it was a kind of sport, pursued for the challenge of it, for the mental exercise, the status that accrues to winners, and perhaps its abstract beauty? It’s quite possible for this to be true even if the participants fool themselves that it affects the content of their thinking on actual, operational matters.

Indeed, quite possibly, they accept the operational code that governs the daily conduct of politics because they fool themselves that they are really influenced by Sen, or whoever is fashionable in these circles this week.

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