It’s not just about us

Europe endures a sporadic but constant stream of terrorist attacks in its cities. These are carried out by individuals or small groups. Larger attacks in London, Madrid and Paris involve bombings and mass shootings. Smaller attacks by individuals involve assaults and the running down of civilians.

It is extremely easy to exaggerate these events, to draw them together and in a sense reach upwards for a grand narrative about a new kind of war or a global siege. For racists, there is a fatuous fallacy of composition in which these despicable acts serve as evidence of what Islam is generally. But, the plain fact is that Europe is a large, powerful and resilient region which, in a sober and historicised reckoning, has been troubled by far greater disturbances, most of these emerging from within its own borders throughout its troubled negotiations of difference, sameness, and rivalry. Terrorism challenges our sense of proportion, a balance between a recognition of horrifying acts of violence and a sense that they tell do not come anywhere near to an ‘existential threat’ for European societies which remain resilient, diverse, and socially-energised. Far less do these terrorist acts tell us anything essential about Islam, although it is in a full consideration of modern Islam that one might find a different sense of perspective.

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Endgame politics

This is a bad time to indulge in futurology. The presence of ‘shock’ political events encourages all kinds of hyperbolae. The historiography of predictive political analysis is an embarrassment of errors. Looking at a recent set of changes and announcing a ‘new’ something or other distracts from deeper continuities or similarities with times passed.

Nevertheless. It seems to me that there is a bundle of political practices that – whilst I make no claim to their novelty – have become increasingly prominent and can be understood collectively as a repertoire, that is, a mutually-reinforcing set of political practices. They also reflect some of the broader changes taking place. So, this futurology is less prediction punditry than sense seeking with a view to understanding possible futures. It is also, in part, a warning. Continue reading “Endgame politics”

Populism is the new panic

Populism is the new panic-word for the broad centre of liberal-democratic politics. This is in large part because of its association with the Right and even fascism. The populism of UKIP or Trump aims to create a homogenised constituency of ‘the people’, racialised and hostile to those outside their categorical borders. This is not to say that this ‘people’ actually exist. I will go on to argue that they do not. But, the term ‘populism’ does tend to raise the spectre of this political force, either as an actually-existing political community or as one emerging from the left-behind zones, fertilised by the venal and bombastic politicians who call them to the ballot box. Continue reading “Populism is the new panic”

Meeting Corbyn

A new politics?

On the 19th August I attended a Corbyn for leader rally in Sheffield city centre. It was unusual to attend such a large rally of the Left and with such a positive atmosphere. Usually it takes something awful to get left-leaning people on the streets en masse: an anti-racism event, stop the war, no to student fees, shut down the City… This was an event in which the atmosphere was quasi-festive, not Anti! or Stop! Or No! but Jez we can! The square was completely full. Continue reading “Meeting Corbyn”


I take the title of this blog from the repeated line expressed by Colonel Cathcart in regards to Yossarian in Catch-22. It is a scream of exasperation at Yossarian’s refusal to conform to his plans for order and self-promotion in a situation of insane chaos. He writes on a board ‘Yossarian!’ and then ‘Yossarian?’, neither able to discipline nor understand him.

There seems to be something of an analogy here with the leader of the opposition. Jeremy Corbyn has taken a great deal of flak recently: from his own Parliamentary Party and also from the media. And yet, he remains largely unchanged amidst the venom of the media and the chaos within the Labour Party.

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Middle class revolt*

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. The fall-out from the ‘No’ vote has been unpredictably turbulent and complex because no-one really expected a ‘No’ vote. One of the fairly predictable facets of ‘No’ is that it would enable an increase in openly-expressed racial hatred; this because a large part of the Leave campaign mobilised by evolving anxieties about immigration.

Continue reading “Middle class revolt*”