Friday, April 23, 2010

the way things are

"In Britain the most striking abuse of language is the redefinition of private, for-profit economic activities as services provided by the state. A concrete example is the way private entrepreneurs were given the right to run old people’s homes. However, no one wants to spell that out, which is why they are described as ‘delivering’ the service, as if they were the milkman bringing milk to old people. It prevents people from fully grasping that the state has handed over its mandate of responsibility to a private actor, whose motivation is to provide the cheapest possible service and make the most money.

In France something else is happening, a kind of abusive reworking of republicanism. The old French ideal of egalitarian republicanism with no distinctions, no compromise with religion or localism, with everyone having the same opportunities, speaking the same language, living in the same France – an ideal that was invented in the late 18th century as a way to make a radical break with the Ancien Régime – is now used to paper over the disadvantages of young people, particularly if they are black or brown, from the suburbs or North Africa. The old egalitarian language has been transfigured into saying we all have the same opportunities, we are all equal, we will not talk about the fact that you are female and brown, or allow you to dress differently, because that would not be republican. This subterfuge enables very illiberal behaviour in the name of a ‘liberal ideal’."

very interesting interview of Tony Judt

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