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The rise of New Statesman Man
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He was born between 1979 and 1992. If actually employed, he earns £32,000 or more working in media, academia, or the arts. Or perhaps he nebulously describes himself as a “writer” with no clear business model or source of income that matches his lifestyle. He earns much less than his childhood friends who went on to become lawyers, doctors and scientists. Yet he somehow owns a flat in London, while the rest of us are either priced out to the suburbs or left at the mercy of private renting.
He voted for the Green Party in 2010 and 2015, Labour in 2017 and 2019, and will probably vote Green again 2024. Though not because he cares about climate change beyond its use as a cudgel in arguments about other things.
He reluctantly voted Remain in 2016 after flirting with Lexit, though now thinks that caring about having a “functional trading relationship” with nearby countries is cringe.
His favourite “lefties” are obscure intellectuals from the mid-20th century, who we aren’t smart enough to understand. He likes to think he gets his news from whatever is the 2023 equivalent of Democracy Now!, and he pretends to care about the plight of the Palestinians, or the Sahrawis, but really he just scrolls Twitter and looks for ways to blame slightly less left-wing people for society’s ills to settle factional, intra-left disputes.
And of course, he reads books too. Not books by people we actually might have heard of. But only tomes about why capitalism is bad, written in the most inaccessible academic language. Because he wants to remind us that he really is very clever.
Instead of expressing actual ideas or beliefs himself, New Statesman Man’s default mode is snark, and he loves theatrically dunking and putting people in their place. Particularly women, for some reason.
He hosts his own tinpot knock-off of Chapo Trap House, and is incapable of consuming any creative work without hiding his true opinion about it behind multiple layers of irony.
And only rarely will he dare express a sincere opinion, lest he be accused of being ‘mid’, for not keeping up with the latest high-status opinions and luxury beliefs.
Of course, he went to private school and probably Oxbridge too. He’s almost as embarrassed by his school today charging upwards of £6,000 a term for “day” students, as he is about his dad having a Wikipedia page.
But if pushed about his wealth and privilege, he’d argue that it helps him understand the problems of capitalism and inequality even more. And that unlike us proles, trying to learn about the world by reading Tim Marshall’s political geography books and listening to Sopel and Maitlis on The News Agents, he knows what’s actually going on.
Ultimately though what’s important is that we know that New Statesman Man is better and smarter than us. Because of his impeccable schooling, unlike your very ‘mid’ opinion that boring old social democracy is actually pretty good, only someone as educated as he is could possibly explain the problems with capitalism. That’s why he claims to be relentlessly focused on materialism, even though he doesn’t seem to care all that much about whether poor people ever actually improve their material wealth.
And he has never seriously reckoned with low-status questions like what the “theory of change” is that will ever finally “defeat” capitalism, or what policy steps can be taken to improve living and working conditions for actual poor people. He doesn’t take seriously what it actually takes for more progressive parties to win elections. He has a completely unearned smugness about his righteousness when confronted with these political questions.
And that’s also why he advocates degrowth, in the west at least, because capitalism is unsustainable and at the root of all of our society’s problems (under socialism there would somehow be no factories or industry). Because we don’t need more capitalist pursuit of wealth because we’re already rich. Or at least, he and his friends are.
Confused? Here’s the vital context that enraged me to write this (the slightly inconsistent caricature above is a homage to the original…).
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