Link to Table of Contents Birdie Index Giddens: Beyond left and Right: the Future of Radical Politics

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Anthony Giddens

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Created: April 12, 2001
Latest update: April 12, 2001

Beyond Left and Right:
The Future of Radical Politics

Review Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, and Individual Contributors, April 2001.
"Fair Use" encouraged.
I'll clean this file up later. I just wanted to start getting some of it up so that you could get a feeling for the extent to which academics debate issues of left and right, radicalism and conservatism. Giddens' text is well written and clear. I'm going to start this file with a passage I read last night:
"The welfare state, as has been well documented, took for granted and even furthered the equation of work with paid employment in the labour market; it hence also presumed the patriarchal family. The achieving of full employment, one of the most important aims of socialist advocacy of welfare systems in particular, meant male employment. this was a model of work as fate (for men) and domesticity as fate (for women). It belonged to a time when gender identities had not yet been reflexively challenged and when "non-standard" work, including domestic work, in official definitions of things didn't count as work at all. (Fn. omitted.)

"If such systems are out of line with a situation in which women have entered the paid labour force in very large numbers, so they are also with a socieety in which the centrality of industry is coming to be placed in question. . . .

Giddens, op.cit., at p. 139.

In reading this passage you need to bear in mind that Giddens favors radical politics. You need to know where he's coming from. When you don't know, ask someone who should know. I still have students who confuse left with right when the arguments are well done.

So, from a leftist perspective, Gidden's is reminding us that the welfare state, about which we hear so much with Welfare to Work these days, is very much the product of the dominant discourse and its constraints on the imaginary with respect to work and family. Consider what we mean when we say that someone is working: we mean a full time job. But full time jobs in the traditional work force are now supplemented to a large extent by part-time jobs, with few or no benefits. Students sometimes report in great excitement that they just "got a job, a real job with benefits."

Let's look at that in terms of theory. Traditional theory accepts the dominant discourse definition of full time jobs and unemployment. Critical, postcolonial, postmodern theories question critically the underlying assumptions we inherit from the dominant discourse. Many of the left/right arguments hinge on the extent to which we are willing to acknowledge and reflect on those underlying assumptions, and on the effects they have on those who are excluded in the dominant discourse.

More soon. . . . jeanne

Notes: Compare Tim Wise's piece on What's Wrong with Tolerance to Giddens' deliberative democracy and civil association, at. p. 131, "a cosmopolitan state [is one] conceived of, not as a community but as people living in 'intelligent relationship' with one another." What exactly constitutes an "intelligent relationship" and the active trust required to live in this state? Tim Wise would go more towards the question <Is it empowerment, if the agency hasn't changed?