Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brendan O'Neill loses the plot

Sometimes you read an article that is so wrong-headed you really don't know where to start in trying to responding to it.

This review of Oliver James' book by Brendan O'Neill is one such piece. As I've said earlier, I've met O'Neill and found him to be affable. So I certainly don't want to hurl insults at him over the blogosphere. But really, Brendan. You purport to be a man of the left, yet your defence of anglo-saxon turbo-capitalism could have been penned by a director of Goldman Sachs. Instead of properly addressing James' thesis about the social harm which turbo-capitalism causes, you throw the silly jibe that James and those of us who are alarmed at the impact rampant consumerism has had on our society are 'herbal-tea socialists'. The evidence that turbo-capitalism is making us mentally ill is all around us, in record levels of drug addiction, alcohol abuse, crime and what Erich Fromm labelled 'acts of destruction': self-abuse, arson, vandalism. By writing what you have I can only conclude that (a) you walk around with your eyes closed; or (b) you have decided to throw your lot in with big business.

If you do happen to read this post, then please, please accept two friendly pieces of advice, before you next pen an article on this subject.

1. Read Erich Fromm (and in particular, 'To Have and To Be' and 'The Sane Society').

2. Spend some time travelling around continental Europe in places where turbo-capitalism still doesn't dominate and hopefully you'll understand better the point that Oliver James is trying to make.


Anonymous said...

In addition, Brendan could read Richard Wilkinson's 'The Impact of Inequality' where the debate goes beyond simply patterns of consumption to differences in status, income and autonomy shaping not something open to subjective assessment (my mental well-being) but my longevity.

Put simply you live longer in Greece than the US on average because you live in a more equal, socially secure and supportive society.

My favourite study cited in Wilkinson's book is of three towns in Italy, with matching demographics etc, two of which have significantly higher rates of longevity. The difference traceable to a long tradition in the first two towns of 'co-operative enterprises' as opposed to the third town. The first two have 'flatter' differences in income and status; and, greater exercise of autonomy in the workplace - that studies show lead to better health outcomes (physical and mental).

Anonymous said...

The evidence that turbo-capitalism is making us mentally ill is all around us

"Us"? Speak for yourself!

Neil Clark said...

jolies-couleurs: thanks very interesting.
slapheads: have you read Erich Fromm's The Sane Socety, in which he put forward the thesis that societies themselves could be mentally ill?