In The Baffler, David Graeber asks if, after years of self-sabotaging austerity, Britain has “become bored with hopelessness.” Check out an excerpt below of the full text here.
For nearly half a century, British culture, particularly on the left, has made an art out of despair. This is the land where “No Future for You” became the motto of a generation, and then another generation, and then another. From the crumbling of its empire, to the crumbling of its industrial cities, to the current crumbling of its welfare state, the country seemed to be exploring every possible permutation of despair: despair as rage, despair as resignation, despair as humor, despair as pride or secret pleasure. It’s almost as if it’s finally run out.
On the surface, and from a distance, Britain looks like it’s experiencing one of the stranger paroxysms of masochistic self-destruction in world history. Since the Conservative victory of 2010, first in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and now on its own, the British government has set out to systematically unravel much of what makes life good and decent in the country. Conservative leaders started by trashing the United Kingdom’s once proud university system, while eyeing the greatest source of national pride and dignity, the universal health guarantees of the National Health Service. All of this is being done in the name of an economic doctrine—austerity, the imperative need for fiscal discipline—that no one genuinely believes in and whose results pretty much everyone deplores (including prime minister David Cameron, who in private has denounced the decline of his local public services), in response to an existential crisis that does not exist.
How did this happen? It appears that the entire political class has become trapped in the bizarrely successful narrative that swept the Tories into power after the crash of 2008 and still sustains them long after its consequences have run beyond any sort of humanity or common sense.
Image via The Baffler.