7.3 Civic/Political Commentaries
7.3.1 The British Labour Party, Viewed Sociologically, Organisationally and Ideologically (BLOG/ 8, May 2011)
An overview of the origins of the British Labour Party.
7.3.2 Where is the Political Left Today? (BLOG/ 11, August 2011)
Meditating on the need for the political Left in Britain to redefine its attitude to the state, to avoid getting tarred with a reputation of top-down proto-Stalinist centralised control. Instead progressive change and social cooperation will require good local governance (not another top-down reorganisation) alongside the contribution of a democratic state.
7.3.3 Post-Election Meditations: Should the Labour Party Change its Name? (BLOG/ 55, July 2015)
Changing or adapting the Labour Party’s name, which originated in the late nineteenth century, would help to broaden the social basis of its support in the early twenty-first century. [PJC adds in 2020: onwards to the Red/Green alliance?]
7.3.4 More Post-Election Meditations: On Changing the Labour Party’s Name (BLOG/ 56, August 2015)
Reflections upon comrades’ responses to a proposed change to the Labour Party’s name.
7.3.5 Riding the Tides of History: Why is Jeremy Corbyn like Napoleon Bonaparte? (BLOG/ 57, Sept. 2015)
World-historical individuals (in Hegel’s grand terminology) are those who encapsulate in their person the broader tides of History. They are potent as long as they continue to play that role. Napoleon from 1799 to 1815 embodied the dynamic forces of the French Revolution; but after Waterloo did not. Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the British Labour Party based his influence upon the high tide of youth discontent with neo-liberal conservatism. It was his chance to mould events. By implication, if the tide slackened or divided – or ran into hard-headed political opposition – then Corbyn’s influence would also wane. [PJC adds in 2020: As happened. Corbyn proved to be no Napoleon, either in tactics or in strategy. However, the Corbyn phenomenon arguably demonstrated the potential appeal of anti-Austerity politics. Time again will tell.]
7.3.6 Referenda Viewed Long (BLOG/ 68, August 2016)
Historical meditations on the use and abuse of referenda within parliamentary democracies.
7.3.7 Britain and Mainland Europe Viewed Long: From Concert of Europe to Council of Europe (BLOG/ 69, Sept. 2016)
Historical meditations on Britain’s repeated on-off institutional connections with mainland Europe, from the Concert of Europe (founded 1814) to the Council of Europe (founded in 1949, with strong British support, at the Treaty of London).
7.3.8 What’s Wrong with the European Union’s Hybrid Constitution? (BLOG/ 70, Oct. 2016)
The constitution of the European Union is notably hybrid because it was constructed and amended at many different points in time. To an extent, that flexibility confers strength. The EU runs on negotiation between its component members. But the system is opaque to the voting public – and needs reform to make it clearly democratic. Otherwise, it is open to attack as seemingly much more undemocratic than it actually is.
7.3.9 Who Cares? Getting People to Vote (BLOG/ 78, June 2017)
Arising from past studies of systems of voting, this short essay muses on the civic importance of turning out to vote, even in elections where victory for one candidate or another is a foregone conclusion.
7.3.10 Why Bother to Study the Rulebook? (BLOG/ 99, March 2019)
Rules and regulations can upon occasions be taken too far. But not following any rules leaves bully-boys in power. PJC here reports on an episode from her youth when she was legally nominated onto a London charitable trust but disparaged and ignored by the existing trustees, to the point when she demanded to see the standing orders, in order to challenge the chair’s misuse of authority. She never saw these trustees again. To find out why, please read details within 7.3.10.
7.3.11 Controlling Street Violence and Learning from the Demise of Duelling (BLOG/ 100, April 2019)
Eighteenth-century British society managed to codify certain forms of elite male violence into the duel, and then gradually, through changing social attitudes, to outlaw duelling entirely. Does this story suggest any lessons for controlling street violence today?
7.3.12 Being a Citizen whilst Living under a Hereditary Monarchy (BLOG/ 145, January 2023)
Britons live under a hereditary monarchy, so they are subjects? Yes? But they live as free members of a sovereign state, so they are citizens? Yes? The answer is a historical mish-mash. Yes, we are both. This short essay explains how that apparently illogical state of affairs came about; and considers how societies can live with flexible illogicalities within evolving constitutions.
Penelope J. Corfield
Penelope J. Corfield is a historian, lecturer and education consultant. She currently serves as the President of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS).
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