Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, urges local councils to "man up" and accept the "quiet revolution" the government is implementing. In this process, austerity is bound up with a set of policies ostensibly devolving power to local authorities. Councils can increase taxes if they must – but any rise above 2% must be ratified by a local referendum.This sly proviso is intended to provide a pseudo-populist basis for austerity in perpetuity. Just as the government is using a thin facade of democratisation, with the election of a single police commissioner, to boost rightwing law-and-order politics, so it is using the language of devolution to further neuter local authorities.To see how this works, it is necessary to understand the context of Cameronite "localism". Its premises are rooted in what might be called a neoliberal governmentality – the idea that through the correct application of market-based incentives, people can be gradually moulded into neoliberal subjects. People's behaviour, driven by such incentives, would determine how they thought and felt about the world. As the French philosopher Louis Althusser once put it, "Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you shall believe."