Sunday 14 April 2013

On community spirits and Thatcher's legacy

With the funeral of Baroness Thatcher getting closer, the country seems to hark back to the times of division and hatred. I wont wade into the debate whether Thatcher did more good than bad (or vice versa) but instead would like to impart a brief observation. Reading the obituaries (reverent and irreverent ones) I noticed that some attributed the loss of community spirit to her policies. 

This reminded me of the nostalgia for socialism and its ‘collective spirits’ shared by many in the former communist countries where democracy and freedom have allegedly brought about the demise of the feelings of friendship and mutual support. However, I cant help but wonder about the conspicuous lack of strength in those communities if they only existed in the good times. If Thatcher wrought so much misery on these communities, wouldn’t her time in government increase the strength of those community spirits, rather than bring about their decline? 

Happy times?

It seems that, after all, those communities were not so much cultivating the spirits of mutual support, but fostering a sense of exclusivity, where individuals had to submit to the rule of the collective. In this sense, perhaps the decline of the community spirits heralded the inevitable rise of individuality and personal freedom. Clearly, as some ‘communities’ imploded under Thatcher, people had to re-forge the foundations of society anew, a laborious and challenging process. Yet the product was not atomism, as some commentators have written. It was individual liberty realised, as Hegel would have said.

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