February 8, 2010 Leave a comment
Whatever one feels about the recent efforts to revitalise the thinking behind civic-led ownership from both the left and right, it does explicate the desire by frontline workers to be more instrumental in the services around them.
From the right this desire has been expressed by Philip Blond, whose think-tank Respublica published a document last year entitled “The Ownership State” which aims at demonstrating greater productivity in the workplace being achieved by increased input by staff in the decisions an organisation makes.
From the left and centre (though not limited to these categories) came mutualism, the notion that the public sector could be regenerated by devolving power to the frontline, local groups, charities and also see organisations employ a greater degree of input by staff.
Both are products of the belief that either the state or the market are becoming too big and curbing the efforts of those people who are really putting in the elbow work.
Over the past few years, the way information is distributed has taken a community based sea-change similar to that promoted by the examples above, with the advent of web 2.0 technologies and social networking, such as twitter, facebook and the blogosphere. Less and less are we limited to professional journalists for the information we receive, but the emergence of a cyber-centric contingent has meant that the communication sector is an empire contributed to by anyone – and potetially everyone – who feels that they have something to say.
This does bring about certain problems, however. Paul Staines once said, in an entry posted on the Guardian’s Comment is Free, that the reason blogs had a growing influence is because they produced “sufficient checks on politicians” and that they held “MPs to account”, presumably without prohibition from editors with strategic motives. However, the blogosphere is not sheltered from the rules of hegemony. Staines himself is someone who is very much in touch with the hierarchy of the Westminster village, and furthermore he is not a non-partisan blogger, therefore what he chooses to blog about will be subject to the same partisanship as an editor of a lobby journalist, therefore one must call to question whether the hegemonic bloggers will really produce the “sufficient checks” that Staines himself said they would. What he said in his article sounds good in theory, but does it really work like that? The answer, sadly, is no.
Blogging and social networking can, and will, change the political landscape. Joining a cause on facebook has had notable successes in pressurising politicians, Obama’s presidency campaign, the gag put on the Guardian by Barclays, the Jan Moir affair, and those other issues participated in by what Nick Cohen has previously called the hob-nob mob, are all testament to the power of the internet. Though, like the ideas of civic-led change to the public services, they are dependent on a continued battle against the so-called dominant forces. Even in the virtual world, earth-rules apply. Subversion of the way in which information is spread must be rule number one of the blogger.