A couple of interesting, thought-provoking things have caught my attention in recent days.
The first was Professor Hugh Cunningham’s excellent R4 programme, How new is the new philanthropy? The second part of this series aired yesterday and is still on the BBC iPlayer. Sadly, the first part doesn’t seem to be.
For instance, Cunningham explores Victorian philanthropy and charts the shift which took place in the nineteenth century from rich families helping the poor (often with religion attached and underpinning notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor), to poor people helping each other — the roots of co-operative and friendly societies and the emergence of mutual aid.
It seems a long way from this emerging culture of mutuality to a ‘new philanthropy’ that seeks to ‘monetise’ social problems and earn a return from their ‘solution’.
MIranda Sawyer in the Observer has some interesting things to say about the programme here.
The other thing was a Guardian piece called “The Ikea Anarchists”, about the Deterritorial Support Group (DSG), a largely student activist movement.
DSG is exploring the lost art of political sloganeering and agitation with new, slightly tongue-in-cheek provocations for the Facebook and Twitter age. DSG says of itself that it comprises “anti-authoritarian communists” opposed to the calcifying bureaucracies of political parties and trades unions that on the one hand seek to “represent our collective will, while perpetuating capitalist social relations with the other”.
Perhaps as much Marx Brothers as Marx, the DSG seems to have much in common with the Situationists of the 50s and 60s, and in particular the theories of Guy Debord, one of the Situationists’ chief strategists and provocateurs.
Political propaganda is always a fascinating commentary, often revealing more about the political culture of an age than hours of sterile interviews with Ministers and frontbenchers.
Of course, it is easy to dismiss the DSG as a bunch of clever-clever students with too little real work to do — but in some respects that’s the point. They do have too little work to do. They are the new generation of graduates without prospects.