This is a post about someone usually regarded as being as right on as Sting, except Sting is a dick unlike this bod.
I mind being told a story about Professor Harold Perkin, the dead social historian, by some bod that’s now a high falutin’ academic at a top notch university. By way of background there’s all these wannabe who’s who and Debretts type shite kicking about that send out reams of spam email asking you to pay them cash, in return for which they’ll stick you in their forthcoming international guide to top notch professional movers and shakers. Harold it seems had fallen for the hype, stumped up the cash and had all of the resultant certificates stuck up on his wall to prove that he was indeed top notch.
The irony of the story was that he was top notch regardless of the certificates. Anyhoo, reflecting on my post on the forthcoming Scottish election and the jerkwads campaigning for our vote and more generally about the ongoing assault on the public sector, public sector gold-plated pensions and public sector Ts&Cs and what not more generally minded me of Harold.
Most of the arguments made against public sector employment conditions are couched in terms of fairness and pragmatism; why should they have that when us private sector bods don’t and anyhow its unsustainable, etc., etc., Now personally, being a private sector bod, my beef with public sector bods is they don’t have a fucking clue what life is like outwith their world, but despite that I’m still conscious of how the overall thrust of shit is that rather than levelling private sector employment conditions up to public sector standards, its instead about levelling down the public sector to all the shite us private sector bods have to contend with, i.e. a fucking race to the bottom hurtling towards the vast the majority being forced to work til they die in exchange for less money, more debt and fewer public services.
But, that’s me and I’m being specific, whereas quoting from dead Harold’s Times obituary on the other hand I find these wee, bigger-picture gems; “by the mid-20th century, Perkin argued, the professional ideal had triumphed as completely as the entrepreneurial ideal had done a century before. But, just as the entrepreneurial ideal had started to decline in the moment of its triumph, the professional ideal started to lose its glitter when it achieved moral and cultural hegemony. Public service professionals were confronted by a backlash led by their private sector cousins. And, by a strange paradox, this private sector backlash took place under the banner of a new version of the entrepreneurial ideal of 150 years before….. almost everywhere, he gave warning, professional elites were abandoning the service ethic of their forebears and feathering their nests at the expense of their fellow citizens, whom they treated as “dairy herds to be milked to exhaustion”. The great question was how to prevent them from abusing their power. But did we really want to prevent them? Or were we “content to let the false prophets of individual greed and unenlightened self-interest lead us down the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire?”
Following on from that I was going to phrase the following in terms of the public sector ethos vs private sector “realism” , except the triumph of said private sector “realism” has been so complete, so all-encompassing and so increasingly applied that the notion of “vs” seemed pointless. They (me) won, so deal with it, which is cool except the credit crunch we’re all living through, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, highlights both the true costs of that victory and its consequences for the vast majority of Britons. Shame there was never a debate about it all.
There again something Harold’s academic peers made a point of ensuring was that that would remain the case. This is understandable given how many retain a juvenile fascination with implausible, left-wing theory driven notions of what a fairy-tale werking class might have one day achieved when it wasn’t beating up the wife after getting paid on a Friday. Then there’s Marx himself who accidentally omitted the rise of the entire fucking non-manual, white collar salariat in a that calls his entire oeuvre into fucking question to the extent Harry Braverman later tried and failed to save the argument with his deskilling thesis (with people in turn making efforts to justify Braverman's deskilling thesis).
Compared to them Dead Harold suffered from never being sufficiently trendy (no Marxist, neo or otherwise or post modern shite for him I'm afraid) to attract the naive and had a chip on his shoulder a mile wide that his peers were fully aware of as per the introductory story. Like this wonderfully dismissive review by some Prof here is an example of how Harold got belittled on a personal level so his ideas could be dismissed, which is a pity because I reckon they provide a fantastic insight into and means of understanding the present. Or to give a practical example, given what we’ve all learned about public sector owned bank bonuses and free bank subsidies and what no, yer man Harold’s comment about how the socio-economic elite might view us droogs as “dairy herds to be milked to exhaustion” is utterly fucking spot on.
Am now trying to think of a point to this post now, err, howzabout gie us a better pension ya cunt and see thay politicians wanking on about applying private sector values to the public sector, howzabout they all get their faces gangraped by donkeys the next time they say “business model”? There, that’ll do.