In today’s episode I talk to journalist and author David Goodhart. He first became famous, or infamous to some, when he wrote an essay in 2004 – “Too diverse?” –about how diversity can come in conflict with solidarity within a nation state. It sparked a huge debate in Britain, which also reverberated here in Sweden. Since then he’s been a public intellectual with an almost absolute pitch for noticing changes in society and in people’s attitudes.
His latest book – Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century (Allen Lane 2020) – concerns the way in which cognitive labour has received most of the economic rewards during the last decades, and also most of the status. People who work in cognitive-heavy sectors have shaped society in their image. The huge expansion of higher education is a case in point. This has laid too much of an emphasis on academic achievement, and too little on other areas which are equally if not more important. The hand and the heart are obviously metaphors, but they correspond to sectors of the job market that tends to be looked down on, or seen as out-dated. It’s the people that might not have gone to university, which didn’t mean that much when only 15 percent did so. But when 50 percent go to higher education it creates a completely different dynamic, where they themselves get blamed for not going. It’s not a classless society, but a society where class has morphed into something different.
It’s a followup on his book – The road to somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (Hurst 2017) – which had more to do with how different people relate to openness, borders and their identity. It got published right after both the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, and provided a much needed analysis of how that came to be. Many have by now heard the dichotomy anywhere versus somewheres, which David Goodhart came up with in that book. Basically the anywheres tend to be focused on the head, and the somewheres tend to work more with the hand and the heart. The anywheres are less rooted in place, and tend to have more achieved identities which has to do with merit, education, profession etcetera. Somewheres tend to have more ascribed identities, which are beyond the individuals control, such as nationality, locality, sex.
We talk about this in the podcast, and also his forthcoming book which will be the third installment of this trilogy. The preliminary title is Who cares? and will take off where Head, hand, heart left the reader. The focus is on the care sector, family life and why we need to rebalance our aging societies towards the heart.
I highly recommend reading David Goodharts books, if you haven’t already. He’s been an influence on my thinking for a long time. And I hope you find the interview as interesting as I did.
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Guest on Matt Goodwins subcast
I was recently a guest on. I suggest giving him a follow on his Substack if you like the interview. He’s one of my go to sources for British politics, among other subjects. Here’s the full audio:
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