A seminar at the British Academy yesterday on Andrew Gamble's book The Spectre at the Feast reiterated the unreal quality of the present political situation in the wake of the global financial crisis. As Andrew Gamble pointed out, the suffering had not been so great yet, but ultimately it would lead to heightened conflict and rougher politics. The crisis would shine a sharp light on who gains and who loses.
This theme was taken up by Peter Riddell who pointed out that there was not quite as acute a feeling as at the time of the rise of unemployment in the early 1980s. Was there a sufficient shock to stimulate change? In terms of Gamble's categories in his book, the preponderant response was that of muddled regulatory liberals: the reaction was 'let's regulate a bit better.' Riddell also noted that David Camerons' anti-state rhetoric had many ambiguities in it.
A widely shared view was that the global financial crisis was being seen as a technical problem to be solved by technical means. In part this was a consequence of the lack of any new thinking of the kind that had been stimulated by earlier crises.