Author: Neema Parvini

Why Assumptions About ‘Rising Inequality’ Are Wrong

The past year has seen a spate of books worrying about the decline of Western liberal democracy. One of the lazy and unexamined assumptions in these books is the idea that “rising inequality” is a causal factor for the current wave of so-called populism witnessed in Europe and America. This cliché is trotted out by writers across the political spectrum. For example, in Why Liberalism Failed, the conservative Patrick J. Deneen points to “a growing gap … between wealthy haves and left-behind have-nots.” In How Democracy Ends, the centre-leftish David Runicman writes, “a driver of populism [is] rising inequality.” Similarly, Edward Luce in The Retreat of Western Liberalism reports in glib and journalistic prose that we live in “times of stark and growing inequality.” The problem with these platitudes is that they bear virtually no relationship to the lived reality of millions of people in the West. I will explain why. Recent Inequality In Great Britain, with changes in the type of work people do, and as capital has been reallocated from manufacturing to services, …

Rejecting Progress in the Name of ‘Cultural Appropriation’

Another week, another set of manufactured outrages. New absurdities have been discovered recently in the UK as the Labour politician, Dawn Butler, has criticised the TV chef, and self-appointed guardian of the nation’s sugar levels, Jamie Oliver, for ‘cultural appropriation.’ His crime? Launching a product called ‘Punchy Jerk Rice,’ which, according to Butler, is ‘appropriation from Jamaica’ and ‘needs to stop.’ Until fairly recently the availability of global cuisines was seen as one of the few marked triumphs of multiculturalism. The idea of curry being a ‘National Dish’ for the UK was, as late as 2015, widely celebrated by left-leaning publications such as The Guardian and The Independent. This week, these publications signalled the illiberal transformation of their thinking by joining Butler in condemning Oliver. One eagerly awaits manufactured outrage from the British Italian community when they discover that Mr Oliver has a chain of restaurants called ‘Jamie’s Italian’ while, shock and horror, not actually being Italian. The very prospect of sudden outrage from once-respectable newspapers at an idea that has been perfectly normal for …

The Prison-House of Political Language

Of all the stunningly awful attempts to explain away the reasons why the 2016 US Presidential election did not produce the result that the elites wanted, perhaps the worst – and certainly one of the most persistent – has been the claim that Donald J. Trump is a would-be Hitler leading his Nazi followers to power. Almost two years after Trump’s victory, plans have now been announced to once again adapt Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to the screen but this time with “Trump hanging over it.” So as well as being the embodiment of evil, does President Trump also have an Orwellian Big Brother stranglehold on the media? Let us look at some facts. Of America’s Top 100 newspapers, only two endorsed Trump in 2016. Since January 2017, Trump has not polled higher than 50% with any of the major polling outlets. Major award ceremonies now seem dedicated to venting celebrity hate with the President as Emmanuel Goldstein. At the same time academics (who, remember, tend to be Democrats rather than Republicans at ratios as high …

The Elites and Inequality: The Rise and Fall of the Managerial Class

In analysing the political upheavals across Europe and America in the past several years, it has become customary to talk about ‘the elites’ and about ‘inequality’. This article will explore both concepts in political and socio-economic analysis, and posits that certain elites in the West need narratives of inequality to maintain their stranglehold on power. It concludes by suggesting that we are witnessing the passing of an old and increasingly irrelevant class of elites, whose wild attempts to cling onto the old order will see them lash out in unpredictable directions. When the political left talk about elites, they typically refer to ‘the haves’ (as opposed to the ‘have nots’), that is the top 1% of income earners, a concern which has a legacy in outmoded and demonstrably incorrect Marxist analysis. Thus, here in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn’s far left Labour party routinely trot out the old line that ‘the rich keep getting richer while the poor are getting poorer’. However, even The Guardian – albeit through gritted teeth – pointed out in 2017 that …

The Incentives for Groupthink

In thinking about the extraordinary capitulation of our institutions to the self-avowedly radical, ‘subversive’ and altogether pernicious forces of Marxism and intersectionality, there is a temptation to see this development as the execution of a sinister plan. As anyone who has come into human contact with real academics would surely know, this narrative flatters their competence. In this article, I wish to caution the reader against this conspiratorial frame of mind, tempting as it might be. To think like this is to attribute a top-down command-and-control explanation for a bottom-up incremental phenomena. In Daniel Dennett’s phrase, it is to construct a ‘skyhook’,1 which is tantamount to the argument from design so famously dismantled by David Hume.2 So the skyhook argument goes: the human eye is so irreducibly complex that it could not have been a chance occurrence – it must have been deliberately designed. And yet, we know that it evolved incrementally over millennia. In The Evolution of Everything (2015), Matt Ridley demonstrates how people are generally now willing to grant Darwin’s insights into the …

The Stifling Uniformity of Literary Theory

In 1976, the Nobel-prize winning economist, F.A. Hayek, published The Mirage of Social Justice, the second volume of his magnum opus Law, Legislation and Liberty.1 Despite being widely regarded as the definitive critique of social justice, today one would be lucky to find advocates of social justice in the academy who are familiar with the name ‘Hayek’, let alone those who have read him. Among classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike, Hayek is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century whose The Road to Serfdom represents one of the most powerful arguments against socialism ever written.2 But those in the academy who have perpetuated socialist ideas since the 1980s have practically ignored it. In this article, I will argue that this unwillingness to engage with the ‘other side’ is not only endemic in the radical intellectual schools that have overtaken literary studies, but also that it is symptomatic of their entire way of thinking which, being hermetically sealed and basically circular in its argumentation, has no language to deal with critics beyond …