Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Big Society - the origin?

I've been reading Foucault's fascinating The Birth of Biopolitics, at the recommendation of Jess, which is an excellent genealogy of neo-liberalism. As I will be liberally ripping it off when I talk at the Accelerationism event I will save substantial comments until then, however as I was reading I came across this:

in 1950 Ropke wrote a text entitled The Orientation of German Economic Policy, which was published with a preface by Adenauer. What does Ropke identify in this text, this charter, as the object, the final aim, the ultimate objective of governmental action? I will list the objectives he fixes: first, to enable as far as possible everyone to have access to private property; second, the reduction of huge urban sprawls and the replacement oflarge suburbs with a policy of medium-sized towns, the replacement of the policy and economics of large housing blocks with a policy and economics of private houses, the encouragement of small farms in the countryside, and the development of what he calls non-proletarian industries, that is to say, craft industries and small businesses; third, decentralization of places of residence, production, and management, correction of the effects of specialization·and the: division of labor; and the organic reconstruction of society on the basis of natural communities, families, and neighborhoods; finally, generally organizing, developing, and controlling possible effects of the environment arising either from people living together or through the development of enterprises and centers of production.

You will recognize this text; it has been repeated 25,000 times for the last 25 years.

As Foucault goes on to remark 'I think this multiplication of the "enterprise" form within the social body is what is at stake in neo-liberal policy. It is a matter of making the market, competition, and so the enterprise, into what could be called the formative power of society.'

So perhaps not Chesterton/Belloc, but a re-tooled neo-liberalism German style? Frankly the whole 'big society' fills me with horror so I can't check how closely the proposals match the above, confirmation / refutation appreciated (let's move into a Popperian / Lakatos space).


Mark said...

"It is a matter of making the market, competition, and so the enterprise, into what could be called the formative power of society." = business ontology!

Alex said...

I am so glad someone has made this comparison because essentially this is the argument of a major chunk of my PhD - German ordoliberal precedes the Big Society and most of the actually-existing communitarianism by some time indeed.

Great to hear people think alike!

Benjamin said...

well I'm also glad to see it's been spotted