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Communitarianism: The Practice of Postmodern Liberalism

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What better way of introducing the concept of the “Third Way” than in the words of one of its key proponents, British prime minister Tony Blair? This is what he had to say in February, 2003:

The Third Way to me consisted of … ‘flexibility plus’ to cope with market failure … [a] rights and responsibilities approach based on conditionality in welfare, strong on law and order, but also social programmes to address the causes of crime … equality of opportunity, but also restructuring and reform to build more diverse, individually tailored services built around the needs of the modern consumer …. [and] in foreign policy … pursuing a broad agenda of engagement with the aim of building a new global partnership based on shared values.

Gibberish though this is, it is, unhappily, significant gibberish. The concept of the “Third Way” in earlier versions already included Mussolini's original interpretation, as a compromise between socialism and capitalism which purported to surmount both; and the post-war attempt to steer clear of the cold war antagonists whilst pursuing a programme of the Left. But in this case, the Third Way is simply neoliberalism in practice. Blair's use of the term, at a time when Anglo-American plans to invade Iraq were in an advanced stage, and after a silence of some three years, should give pause to all those concerned by the Bush-Blair axis’ determination to spread “freedom” across the world.

For the Third Way also entails action, in this case military action that brought US forces to Baghdad within a fortnight, and the British to Basra—only to get stuck in the quagmire of occupation. Never mind that the invasion of Iraq was illegal; never mind that there were no weapons of mass destruction; never mind that the “democracy” in whose name it was carried out extends only to those who agree with the Bush-Blair agenda. Never mind Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and all the rest. For Blair—like Bush—is a righteous man, and knows even the mind of God, as he revealed in an interview in 2003:

What does [prime minister Blair] feel about the deaths of children that are the direct results of his own decision? … ‘It really gets to you,’ he says, as though he were talking about someone other than himself. … Aides have spoken of how much he has felt the responsibility of shedding blood. He speaks of being ready ‘to meet my maker’ and answer for ‘those who have died or have been horribly maimed as a result of my decisions'. He accepts that others who share belief in his maker, who believe in ‘the same God', assess that the last judgment will be against him.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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