Cadmus Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth, Maxfield Parrish, 1908, credit Wikipedia
Matthew Goodwin, Values, Voice and Virtue, The New British Politics, Penguin, 2023, Pb, 239 pp, U.K. £10.99, reviewed by Leslie Jones
A major realignment is taking place in British politics, according to Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. In a “post-industrial and knowledge based economy”, “cognitive-analytical skills” (Spearman’s g) are at a premium.[i] Hence the exponential increase in university places. In the 1960’s, 8,000 people entered British universities each year. In the 2010’s, the corresponding figure was 350,000.[ii] Goodwin discerns here the emergence of a new “ruling class” of university educated professionals, located mainly in London and other urban centres of the new economy. R Herrnstein and C Murray, in similar vein, refer to the “cognitive elite”, those with the requisite intelligence to enter the “high-IQ” occupations.
Some may dispute the author’s contention that the working class once dominated Britain’s economy and society.[iii] But what is clear is that manufacturing jobs have declined from 30% in the 1950’s to 9% at the time of the Brexit Referendum.[iv] The power of the trade unions, which boasted 9 million members in the 1950’s, has also been dramatically reduced – ditto working class representation. The Labour Party once resembled its supporters. Prominent figures like Manny Shinwell, Ernest Bevin and Aneurin Bevan had working class credentials. Some leading figures in the party, in particular Peter Shore and Tony Benn, although privately educated, were staunch supporters of British sovereignty as a bulwark of workers’ rights.
But the number of Labour MPs with working class roots fell from 64 in the 1980’s, during the leadership of Neil Kinnock, to 7 under that of Keir Starmer.[v] And indicatively, the proportion of Labour MPs who opposed Brexit was 96%. Little wonder that the working class, once instinctively loyal to Labour, are deserting an institution widely perceived as part of the Liberal establishment. This declining support can be linked to the rise of national populism throughout the West. The author rejects the condescending and facile explanations of the disaffection of manual and skilled workers, notably the media (especially social media) manipulation of a “morally inferior underclass of racist, irrational and ignorant Little Englanders”. [vi] Likewise the notion that Brexit was driven by “institutional racism” and nostalgia for empire.
Whence the ”counter-revolution” against the meritocratic elite that Goodwin posits? Many elderly voters, an increasingly significant demographic in an aging population, plus non-graduate and working class voters, adhere to traditional values. They generally revere Britain’s history. Although tough on law and order and disdainful of identity politics, they resent economic inequality.
Concerning Max Weber’s signal distinction between classes and status groups, Professor Anthony Giddens makes a lapidary comment;
Status groups normally manifest their distinctiveness through following a particular life-style, and through placing restrictions upon the manner in which others may interact with them. The enforcement of restrictions upon marriage, sometimes involving strict endogamy, is a particularly frequent way in which this may be achieved.[vii]
Or as Herrnstein and Murray aver, “Like attracts like when it comes to marriage, and intelligence is one of the most important of these likes”.[viii] The university-educated elite occupy the summit of a status hierarchy in which the right job, the right address, the best education and the correct values guarantee success. Its members mainly interact with like-minded people and are intolerant of those holding different views. Whites, heterosexual men, the able bodied, are seen as oppressors; minorities, immigrants and women are “morally righteous, superior and virtuous”. Divergent view are demonised and excluded. Terms like racism, sexism and white supremacy abound. Black Lives Matter and reparations for African slavery are uncritically endorsed.
The new elite’s attainment of cultural hegemony has enabled it to impose a social and political revolution on the masses, based on globalisation, mass immigration and subordination to trans-national institutions. Members of the aristocratic landed elite like Harold Macmillan felt beholden to anyone who had fought for Britain. But the new brahmins debunk patriotism and national identity and prefer multiculturalism and diversity. They view democracy as an inconvenience or even a liability.
Like a latter-day General Booth, Goodwin expatiates on the vice and poverty of today’s Darkest England. Working class men, as he observes, have lost status and in many cases, as in industries like coal mining, the jobs that gave them “a sense of usefulness, dignity and meaning”.
In ‘Immigration- the Reserve Army of Capital’, Alain de Benoist maintained that what big business requires is the immigration of “docile and cheap labour devoid of class consciousness or any tradition of social struggle”.[ix] He endorsed François-Laurent Balssa’s contention that big business seeks to dismantle the welfare state, considered too costly, and that the left want to kill off the nation state, considered too archaic. Professor Goodwin agrees that large corporations require “cheap migrant labour”. New Labour provided it in abundance, while abandoning the party’s traditional support for economic equality, the welfare state and collective bargaining. During its period in office, net migration into Britain rose from an annual average figure of 37,000 to 250,000. We unreservedly commend Goodwin’s analysis.
[i] In The Bell Curve, R Herrnstein and C Murray emphasise the growth of high-IQ professions
[ii] Goodwin, p.25
[iii] Goodwin, p. 12
[iv] Goodwin, p.13
[v] Goodwin, p.100-101
[vi] Goodwin, p.1
[vii] Anthony Giddens, Capitalism & Modern Social Theory, p.166
[viii] The Bell Curve, p.91-92
[ix] See QR Autumn 2011; Goodwin, p.54
Dr Leslie Jones is Editor of QR