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I've been reading Philip Blond's Red Tory. It's a bit disappointing to be honest. I liked Blond's critique of state and private sector monopolism when it first appeared in Prospect, but there isn't much more meat added to the bones in the book.

I've been reading Philip Blond's Red Tory. It's a bit disappointing to be honest. I liked Blond's critique of state and private sector monopolism when it first appeared in Prospect, but there isn't much more meat added to the bones in the book.

It's not the implicit homophobia (implicit by same-sex relationships never being mentioned). Nor the implicit women-should-stay-at-home-and-raise-kids views. I knew to expect all that. It's the sheer bloody one-sidedness of the polemic.

Take his argument that the welfare state has (disastrously) eroded the 'little platoons' of civic society that used to provide welfare. We can all agree that the welfare state has in some ways gone wrong. But to present civic society as the flawless solution is naive. A cursory read of Sennett's Respect would have informed Blond of the potentially demeaning nature of charity dispensed by civic society, which was one of the reasons for getting the more neutral state to dispense welfare after WWII. Charity can be patronising, judgemental and patchy.

Then take mutualism on the part of the working classes (basically, looking out for one another through joining groups, and pooling assets). Sure, who would argue against a return to more of that. But the problem in the past was that mutual forms of  organisation, welfare provision and asset-holding were not the norm, rather the exception. The state took over welfare provision not to destroy mutualism (although this might have been a side effect), but to make up for its rarity.

Finally, take the family. Blond is adamant that the decline of marriage causes broken homes and not the other way round. Let's let that ride. My problem is that he doesn't even consider evidence to the contrary of his theses in this area. Evidence like Demos' report on character which showed no correlation between the acquisition of character capabilities and a child's parents being married. Nor does he consider any of the downsides of a divorce rate of 10% (which is what it was prior to the 1960s, Blond's preferred epoch). For example, unhappy spouses trapped in awful marriages; kids screwed up by constant arguing in the home.

In general there is a wilful lack of attention to anything that challenges Blond's vision of the good society. This seriously undermines the book for me, which showcases Blond's ambition to win power and influence, rather than his skills as a researcher and thinker. And I am still presuming he has some of the latter, although after reading the book I am not so sure.

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