It seems possible to quibble with some key elements of the argument. Was Britain a backwater til 1800? Is it wrong to characterise Leave supporters as “the left behind”? Does general government expenditure really get to 40%? But I won’t. I’ll take it as presented, and instead, quibble with the summary conclusion: that societal and economic changes since the industrial revolution have left many with a sense of losing control.
Well, yes. But is that news? We are told that there is no such thing as control. We are advised to give up control in order to seize new opportunities as they emerge. We see the certainties of our parents and our younger days go swirling down the drain. We look at the flouting of both domestic and international law and see an absence of control. We see democratic processes hijacked by influential interest groups and unduly powerful individuals, and see an abdication of control.
Loss of control is not the issue. We have given up that conceit. And I think you could characterise it more succesfully in a variety of ways. One would be that people are no longer willing to play by rules that are applied differentially. Why play fair? Why obey the rules when others don’t? That’s a breakdown of the social contract. Social fragmentation is another way of putting it. The scapegoat in this case is multiculturalism; the superficial celebration of difference that masked an inability to build bridges, dialogue, or discuss values. Another way of putting it has to do with lack of social empathy, or communitas, as it was first put to me. More and more people refuse to acknowledge each other as worthy, respectable members of society. Demonisation, trolling, othering, are each evidence of this trend.
In each of these instances the Emperor has been naked for quite some time. The seeds of division were sown decades ago. It’s not as though a recent phenomena has shifted things. Rather, we’re reaping the whirlwind; living through a perfect storm of our own making.