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ALL AH WE IS ONE: ‘Legitimation crisis’


TENNYSON JOSEPH

ALL AH WE IS ONE: ‘Legitimation crisis’

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THOSE WHO HAVE SOWED the neo-liberal wind in the form of the reversal of all the painstakingly constructed social measures that held together Barbadian society in the post-Independence period must be in deep shock at how quickly they are reaping the whirlwind in the form of the descent into crime, desperation and the loss of personal security.

Under the narrow economistic direction of leading neo-liberal advisors, little consideration other than “revenue vs expenditure” considerations have shaped Government’s policy focus. The slavish abandonment by a popularly elected Government of its proud social democratic tradition, on the fanciful claims of the unidimensional, anti-people, and ultimately socially catastrophic claims of these unelected neo-liberal spokespersons has however been surprising.  

Particularly shocking has been the Government’s seeming lack of concern for the impact of its neo-liberal policy shift in undermining the legitimacy of the social and economic order. There was something deeply cohesive in the idea that the poorest child could attain the highest level of education, paid through the taxes by the productive population. All the negative and backward aspects of the Barbadian economic order were rendered “tolerable” by the “entitlement” of citizens to education and other social benefits. Barbadian political legitimacy has always been sustained on empirical, tangible claims that the system works for all.

Harsh as this may seem, there are clear signs that an increasing proportion of the Barbadian population is exhibiting signs of being less invested in the value system which has previously governed Barbadian society. There have been disturbing reports of criminals on trial being cheered on by large crowds in an “in your face” statement of rejection of societal norms. Similarly, the personal posts which follow online newspaper crime reports reveal a shocking world view bent on of rationalising criminal actions. Finally, the reports of recent burglaries and attempted burglaries suggest new levels of desperation, but also of diminished respect for others’ rights to property and sense of personal safety.   

It will make an interesting sociological study to ascertain whether a link exists between these indications of rejection of societal values and the public withdrawal by the state of its responsibilities to citizens’ job security and social benefits.

However much it may violate our sense of propriety to accept this, it is clear that the removal of social democratic protection and their replacement with neo-liberal values which see “entitlement” as synonymous with one’s ability to pay, has resulted in a legitimation crisis in the state and its values.

Let us hope that before it is too late, the downward slide into societal disorder will jolt the neo-liberal advisors to question the smugness of their perspective.

There is little basis for optimism, however, since neo-liberals are quicker to recommend increased spending towards improved policing and incarceration than they would for “social benefits” like health, housing, transportation and education.

• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]

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