Weekend reading for March 6 & 7 of 2021. Some thoughts from Old Socialist

Looking for something else, I saw this essay by Perry Anderson: ‘High Jinks at the Plaza’ a review of three books.

The British Constitution Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 289 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 47994 2Constitutional Reform 
by Robert Brazier.
Oxford, 172 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 876257 7Anatomy of Thatcherism 
by Shirley Letwin.
Fontana, 364 pp., £6.99, October 1992, 0 00 686243 8

‘The New Few’ by Mr. Mount stares at me when I’ve opened my closet door, since 2012. As does his Jem (and Sam) Both ended on the Internet’s remainder shelves. Perry Anderson takes apart Mount’s British Constitution book, and books by Robert Brazier and Shirley Letwin with his wit and historical/political knowledge. That renders Mount and his temporary associates- note that Anderson gives credit where credit is due- yet he renders the intellectual/political poses of these authors null.

Here is a link to Edward B. Foley’s review of Mount’s ‘British Constitution’ of 1993.

Book Review: The British Constitution Now: Recovery or Decline? by Ferdinand Mount.


Mr. Foley’s essay is of interest, in that it takes Mount’s book as an exercise of scholarship, rather than as an exercise of politics, in the guise of that scholarship. Anderson provides that indispensable dimension of the politics of Oakeshott and political fellow travelers:

This is, of course, why Michael Oakeshott is the garden god of its intellectual landscape. For his theory of the State was designed precisely to rope off popular government and purposive legislation from the proper conduct of rule. ‘Civil association’, as the framework of order, debarred collective aims or common consent from the structure of government. These were the features of another kind of activity, ‘enterprise association’, which had nothing to do with true governance. The confusion of enterprise association with civil association, when rulers undertook ‘managerial’ tasks – intervening in economic life or meddling in social affairs: in short, any programme for public welfare – was the path to servitude. Mount, closer to day-to-day realities, can see the difficulties of this stark dichotomy for the practical politician, and assures us that the two kinds of association are not mutually exclusive, and were ‘not really intended to be so’. The pious gloss is without consequence. For the burden of Mount’s argument is that the Constitution should indeed be seen, not in the way Bagehot envisaged it – as an ‘engine’ for purposeful government – but as a civil association: a form of living, he writes, as exempt from wilful shape or aim as South Kensington.


Old Socialist

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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.