In the 11/25/2021 Guardian “Long Read” is Jill Lepore on post covid society, a summary of the modern social fabric, with her usual historical detail.
“Other scholars see more continuity, an unbroken tradition of liberal and social democracy on the left, from early 20th-century progressivism down to the 21st-century version. But no one disputes that the political revolutions of the 1960s provoked a counter-revolutionary conservative insurgency, animated, in part, by a furious opposition to civil rights. To McGhee’s point, a great many white people appear to have stopped believing in the existence of society just at the point when Black people won enough political power to declare that society could no longer be “whites only”.”
and at the end:
“Forging stronger bonds in a post-pandemic world, if one ever comes, will require acts of moral imagination that are not part of any political ideology or corporate mission statement, but are, instead, functions of the human condition: tenderness, compassion, longing, generosity, allegiance and affection. These, too, are the only real answers to loneliness, alienation, dislocation and disintegration. But the fullest expression of these functions across distances as easily spanned by viruses and flood waters as by broadband cables and TikTok videos, requires both society and government. What’s needed is nothing less than a new social contract for public goods, environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, public health, community centres, public education, grants for small businesses, public funding for the arts. It won’t be a new New Deal. The dangers are graver because decades of a world, both real and virtual, shaped by Reaganism and Thatcherism, has left the waters rising, all around us, and the forests on fire. Governments rest on a social contract, an agreement to live together. That contract needs renewing. But the problem, in the end, isn’t with society, or the social fabric. It’s with governments that have abandoned their obligations of care.
illustration: abstract collage of children, voting cards and political rosettes
Votes for children! Why we should lower the voting age to six
Liberalism didn’t kill society. And conservatism didn’t kill society. Because society isn’t dead. But it is pallid and fretful, like a shut-in staring all day long at nothing but a screen, mistaking a mirror for a window. Inside, online, there is no society, only the simulation of it. But, outside, on the grass and the pavement, in the woods and on the streets, in playgrounds and schoolyards and ballparks, in council flats and shops and pubs and agricultural fairs and libraries and union halls, society hums along, if not with the deafening thrum of a steam-driven machine, then with the hand-oiled, creaking clatter of an antwacky wooden loom. “