October 31, 2010
Posted by Anshuman Mondal under Culture
| Tags: anthropology
, contemporary Britain
, Emma Tarlo
The following book review first appeared in the magazine The Middle East in London, vol.7 no.4 October 2010 p.17.
Emma Tarlo, Visibly Muslism: Fashion, Politics, Faith (Oxford: Berg, 2010)
Emma Tarlo’s first book was entitled Clothing Matters, and this would not have been inappropriate for her latest work because no other items of clothing matter more in our contemporary world than those garments that mark out the wearer as ‘visibly Muslim’. In particular, garments worn by visibly Muslim women have gathered around them cultural and political significances and associations that situate them at the core of some of the key debates of our time: immigration and integration, multiculturalism, the role of religion in public life, political extremism, and, of course, the vexed relationship between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’. In this timely book, Tarlo shows with great skill, subtlety and nuance how hijabs, niqabs, jilbabs, abayas and so on are not – and never can be – just simple pieces of cloth that wearers either choose to wear or not; rather, they are ‘overdetermined’ markers of identity and otherness; vehicles of history and tradition; emblems of moral rectitude; symbols of oppression; political statements; and ideological investments.
October 23, 2010
Just a quick post: I’m wondering about two glaring contradictions in Tory thought right now that I just cannot understand. Why introduce a change to the child benefit system that will penalise one income households most, given that Tories have long believed that one parent (read: the mother) should stay at home and not work in order to bring up the kids? (more…)
October 22, 2010
Posted by Anshuman Mondal under Economics
| Tags: comprehensive spending review
, Institute for Fiscal Studies
, Nick Clegg
, UK politics
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Nick Clegg has decided to go on the offensive against the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis which shows that, despite Coalition claims that ‘the broadest shoulders are bearing the greatest burden’ and that the Comprehensive Spending Review’s slash and burn of public services is ‘progressive and fair’, the poorest 10% of society will be hit the hardest. He claims that the IFS has failed to take into account the full package of measures as outlined in the Emergency Budget in June as well as the CSR. Would these be the measures which the IFS found, at the time, to be ‘clearly regressive’ taken on their own and only ‘progressive’ when taking into account the tax and benefit proposals of the departing Labour government?
October 21, 2010
Posted by Anshuman Mondal under Economics
| Tags: Ann Pettifor
, Coalition government
, comprehensive spending review
, David Blanchflower
, George Osbourne
, Jonathan Freedland
, Joseph Stiglitz
, UK economy
Some decent articles appeared in the run up to the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which collectively throw light on both the politics and economics of it all. First up, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, writing about how Labour really needs to take on the Coalition’s attempt to pin the blame on them for the ‘economic mess’, and that the deficit is all the fault of profligate Labour spending. According to the Budget 2007, the structural deficit stood at just 3% of GDP before the recession struck; now it is 11%. In other words, prior to the recession it was relatively low by historical standards – as Ed Balls pointed out earlier in the summer, Britain went into the recession with ‘the lowest net debt of any large G7 country’, and this is a matter of fact not interpretation. Indeed, using the Treasury’s figures, the accusation that Labour wildly overspent in office just does not add up: public spending during the previous period of Tory rule was higher in all but 4 of the 18 years they were in office than at any point during 1997-2007 (the four years in question being the boom years after the ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of the City, that period satirised by Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’, 1988-1991).
This is the basis for the first of Freedland’s two killer points. If Labour’s public spending was so wildly out of control, why did Cameron’s Tories (back in his hug-a-hoodie, quality-of-life days) promise to match Labour’s spending plans almost pound for pound? The answer is that clearly it wasn’t. This means, of course, that the size of the deficit now is largely down to the recession and the fiscal stimulus package that prevented disaster turning into catastrophe. Without it, it is likely that recession would have turned into depression, but somehow the Coalition spin machine has successfully managed to make it appear that the medicine was the disease.
October 15, 2010
I’ve just been watching a BBC News 24 report on the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review in which two reporters have been despatched to S.Wales and N.Ireland because, we are told, these are where the public sector is largest. One of these reporters (the one in Wales) then began asking a series of questions of the interviewee all premised on the relative size of the public and private sectors in that region (although, bless her, she managed in her excitement to mix the two up ‘Why is it that the private sector is so huge here…Why is the public sector so small?’ she asked; Er? Come again? Don’t you mean…oh never mind.)
Notwithstanding such minor incompetencies, thus do we see how government still has the power to shape discourse and how the news agencies, like little lapdogs, unthinkingly do their work for them by consolidating the frame within which discussion might be set. After all, the public sector versus private sector distinction is now being used ubiquitously by the news media, thereby doing some ideological heavy lifting on behalf of the government, enabling them to pursue their aim of dismantling the state.
October 8, 2010
I have to admit that when I first found out that Alan Johnson had been chosen by Ed Miliband as his Shadow Chancellor, I was more than a little disappointed. I had voted for Ed because he seemed like a guy who would be bold, and nothing could have been bolder than appointing Yvette Cooper as the first female shadow Chancellor.
On reflection, however, I think I may have been a little unfair. His choice, it seems to me, displays not just tactical cleverness but also strategic acumen. Alan Johnson is a popular guy, not just in the party but also among the electorate, and appointing him sends a clear signal that Ed Miliband is determined to deal, first and foremost, with the inevitable Tory attempt to brand him as ‘Red Ed’. Ed Balls, even Yvette Cooper, his wife, would have been grist to that particular mill given Balls’ opposition to Alistair Darling’s slower deficit reduction plan, never mind the Chancellor’s (I happen to think Balls is right, but there you go). Johnson, a ‘Blairite’ in the political journalist’s lexicon, confronts the charge head-on and neutralizes it.
October 8, 2010
This past week, both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have taken to the airwaves to boast that the coalition government’s ‘tough but necessary’ action in tackling the deficit has pulled it out of the danger-zone in which it lay when they took office, at the mercy of the bond and currency markets who would not tolerate such levels of government borrowing any longer. On the Today programme on Monday, George Osborne claimed that as a result, Britain would be spared the fate of Greece and Ireland.
That comparison with Ireland followed the increasingly desperate news that the former Celtic Tiger is sinking further and further into the quicksand of a deflationary spiral; the more the Tiger lashes out, the further it sinks: further cuts in public spending will be undertaken in order to chase the tail of a deficit that is running out of control precisely because cutting government expenditure during a recession creates a ‘death spiral’, as the economist David Blanchflower calls it, in which the cuts put people out of work, which lowers aggregate demand, which lowers growth, which lowers tax revenues, which widens the deficit, which results in more cuts and so on. Ireland is clearly in that death spiral right now, so it is not surprising that the Chancellor tried to contrast its fate with that of the UK.