Janan Ganesh on the Autumn Statement, a comment by Political Reporter

Mr. Ganesh opens his latest essay using the subjunctive mood of, ‘if only the left understood class as Kinsey understood sex.’ The Kinsey Reports were published in 1948 (Male) and 1953 (Female), and posited the idea of a ‘sexual continuum’ in regards to sexual orientation: Gay,Straight and all the bewildering varieties between these two points.

The trouble is that Mr. Ganesh engages in his own brand of reductivism, when he sights Marx as the Left’s root, its historical singularity. The ‘Left’, Marx and Marxism are static and unchanging, as presented by Ganesh.  Except that the ‘Left’ also expresses itself in many historical/political iterations and permutations, as in  the Kinsey continuum. Amartya Sen is his book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006) talks about the very fluidity of  idea of ‘identity’ as prima facie expressive of multiplicity within an assumed singularity.

The idea/person of Marx serves quite nicely as a straw man, that can now be used, at will, to bolster his argument about the natural antagonism between Capital and Labor as a closely held belief of Leftists. Except that that natural antagonism can be historically demonstrated, as in the rise of Unions, and the battles that resulted, now subject to the Ganesh rhetorical re-description: as in the ‘needy’ can be described as subject to dispossession from a loss of ‘industrial pomp’ :

There are elegiac prose portraits of communities in Britain and America that are poorer than they were in their industrial pomp, but often no poorer than the worst urban areas were then and are now. Theirs is the rage of dispossession rather than the rage of unique hardship.

In sum, Mr. Ganesh adopts the rhetorical persona of Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton, a character from Oscar Wilde’s novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. Wooten is given to such comments as ‘I can sympathize with everything except suffering’ and ‘There is something terribly morbid about the cult of modern sympathy’. To  describes Ganesh as a writer/thinker who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, is to extemporize on a aphorism of  Wilde. Ganesh willfully forgets the Economic Catastrophe of 2008 , its successor Austerity and the utter failure of that once mythical dogma of The Self-Correcting Market.

Give Mr. Ganesh a kind of credit for his labored final paragraphs featuring this puzzling aphorism: ‘The central fact of politics is scarcity.’ It might be more candidly phrased as ‘the collapse of Neo-Liberal policies produced  economic scarcity’. He  indicts the political class, that surrenders to the political blackmail of the ‘jams’ of various hues. Yet this is his pronouncement on both Labour and Tories:

In word and deed, under Labour and Conservative direction, the state has shown a Kinsey-ian sensitivity to the shades of material wellbeing that exist between rich and poor.

This report from The House of Commons Library offers some compelling statistics on poverty and low incomes :

In 2014/15:

  • 10.1 million people were in relative low income BHC (16% of the population), up 500,000 from the year before.
  • 9.4 million were in absolute low income BHC (15%), down 500,000 from the year before.
  • 13.5 million were in relative low income AHC (21%), up 300,000 from the year before.
  • 12.9 million were in absolute low income AHC (20%), down 700,000 from the year before.

Looking specifically at children:

  • 2.5 million children were in relative low income BHC (19% of children), up 200,000 from the year before.
  • 2.3 million were in absolute low income BHC (17%), about the same as the year before.
  • 3.9 million were in relative low income AHC (29%), up 200,000 from the year before.
  • 3.7 million were in absolute low income AHC (27%), down 100,000 from the year before.

Source: DWP Households below average income, 2014/15


One could almost imagine Ganesh inhabiting the Reagan persona of ’76 and ’80 and railing against ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillacs’ myth, with a bit of careful tailoring for a British audience: substituting the ‘jams’ for those ‘Queens’! But the real villains are the politicians,  whose fear of being voted out of office by the ‘jams’, who are looking for the ‘free ride’ of additional benefits. Not to worry about possible repercussions from the actual poor.

Political Reporter








About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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