I am just preparing to write the final summary chapter for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation social evils project (see earlier blogs for further discussions). So, having read the thoughts of figures as diverse as Ferdinand Mount, A C Grayling, and Zygmunt Bauman, with such an array of perspectives, I was surprised to see that one theme runs powerfully through them all: what has become of society?
Those on the left tend to the bemoan the decline of social solidarity, rising inequality and the stigmatisation of the poor; while those on the right bemoan the decline in social norms reflected in rising crime and disorder, and a lack of civility. Many on the left and right worry about the weakening of social cohesion reflected in tensions around diversity and identity.
There is something about all of which echoes the universal condemnation of the greed and irresponsibility that have precipitated the credit. All our leaders – with the benefit of hindsight of course – criticise the erosion of supervision and responsibility. The big question is why, if so many of our opinion formers and decision makers can see the problems and the risks facing us, they were unable to provide effective leadership. The looming economic recession is a consequence of the failure of leadership to alert us to the perils ahead and we face a deepening social recession unless we are able to warn our Fellow citizens of the consequences of loosening the ties that bind us without replacing them with new ways of holding society together.
I’m writing this on my blackberry on my way to speak to the great and good of Wiltshire. I wonder what they will make of my connecting of economic and social ills – perhaps I’ll blog in again on the way back and tell you how I get on.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.