30 July 2010


Richard Sennett, a decidedly lefty professor of sociology at LSE and professor of social science at MIT, has a dynamite article in the Guardian titled "The ASBO is an icon of New Labour negligence". He celebrates the abolition of the Anti-Social Banning Order, Tony Blair's flagship policy to deal with youth pre-criminal disorderly behaviour by - umm - criminalizing it. 
Blair thought social behaviour could be "reformed" top-down, and in this, exactly missed the point of my work. Cultures hold together or fall apart for reasons that transcend power. On the housing estate in Chicago where I lived as a child, frail African-American grandmothers and Italian grandfathers issued something like ASBOs and these were likely to be obeyed: the grandparents commanded a moral authority which no policeman or social worker will ever possess. Of the 17,000 ASBOs issued from 2000 to 2008, 55% have been breached, so the new government is looking for something else.
Good social behaviour among adolescents is all about family countering peer pressure. This is not quite a matter of family "values": kids who routinely go to the pub with their parents get a different education in drinking than teenagers who only swill with each other. So too with meals: working-class adolescents who regularly eat meals with their parents have proved less likely to fall into crime than kids who clean out the fridge on the run. "Values" arise from the habits of everyday life; they are not abstract imperatives: no law could command people when to eat and drink, and with whom.
Note the typical lefty parentheses around family "values". You can just see him doing that stupid American thing with hooked fore and middle fingers wiggling to show disdain for non-PC terminology.

Problem is, you sad old lefty, your argument coincides exactly with what those you dismiss as right-wing have been saying for decades. The matriarchs and patriarchs you recall no longer exist because their function was utterly - and deliberately - subverted by "progressive" social policies designed to turn the lower classes into clients of a state apparat manned by a new lower middle class of parasitic government employees.   


  1. Sociology is frequently a sad pseudoscience when applied to basic human predicaments. The 'ASBO's' applied by grandparents in the Chicago tenements of Sennet's childhood were morally reinforced by the fact that the children were raised by working parents who looked them in the eye when they talked to them and who did not have a TV on 25 hours a day and plenty of food in the fridge as well as lots of spare money for pizza/candy/crisps to share out with their useless offspring. Also the children were entrusted with some helpful chores at home like ironing and cleaning and taking out the rubbish and had a definite stake in how the household - their basic benefits system -ran.

    Consumer life plus parental inattention and avoidance, booze, TV, and the helpful subversion of all family loyalty by their peers have done away with all that 'stake' they once had in their family and any other community, religious, national, you name it. Drug use is just the icing on the cake of what is left. 'Left' indeed, the triumph of socialist 'Equality.'

  2. Sennet's comment that "because they were perceived as a threat," Muslims did not integrate well into British society strikes me as a typical academic ex post facto explanation of the fact that large numbers of illiterate Asians were permitted to immigrate to England and then provided with equally ignorant and prejudiced mullahs who spent no time pushing them to improve themselves through education and personal advancement other than through radical opposition to the values of western societies.

    Given this,by now rather obvious reality, as well as the stated aims of even the so-called 'moderate leaders' of the British Muslim community, that they would prefer to take over Britain and the rest of Europe in the name of some highly retrograde Muslim orthodoxy, lock, stock, crown and parliament, is it any small wonder that there is some notion abroad that
    the presence of so many radical Islamists among us might pose some small threat to the continued well-being of a recognizably democratic England?

    Gee, Dr.Sennet, I hope I don't offend your multi-cultishness too much.

  3. I would dearly like to see some figures on how well Muslim immigrants from India have done, compared to Muslim immigrants from Pakistan. I strongly suspect that the customs of primitive tribalism, not Islam, are the key variable in defining who has made the best and who the worst of their opportunities. Cameron is right to flatter India at the expense of Pakistan; we don not need to import more surly clients for the Labour party.

  4. The saying that 'a little education is a dangerous thing' is as true in this case as in many others(e.g., American public schools). But Islamic teachers constantly promote the notion that Muslims are victims, that they are discriminated against, and that they should be accorded far more privileges in every society because of their righteousness.

    Since black Americans, feminists, Hispanics, Gays, and whoever else have all claimed this splendid entitlement for their 'persecuted' group of choice, one cannot entirely blame the Muslims for hitching their star to this squeaky wheel in the hope that more oil will be shortly forthcoming.

    However, like the Animal Rights people, the violent juvenile mentality of the Islamists
    seems to resort to extremes rather early on and also to contemplate self-extinction for the cause as a kind of heroic option. The Muslim 'moderates' have, of course, provided us with an easy answer to the problem of more suicide bombers in Britain - total conversion of the UK populace. I ask you,what could be more reasonable?