Left for Itself, A
The first full length analysis of the rise of left-wing hobbyists, performative radicals and the identity Left.
In the first full length analysis of the rise of left-wing hobbyists, performative radicals and the 'Identity Left', A Left for Itself interrogates the connection between socio-economic realities and politico-cultural views and boldly asks what is a worthy politics, one for the follower count or one for effecting change.
'In the sometimes febrile environment of contemporary left politics, this book is a measured and evaluative contribution. David Swift cuts through the rhetoric of often violent and divisive exchanges to uncover the roots, motivations, diverse character and strengths and weaknesses of the current phenomenon of so-called ‘identity politics’.'
Dr Stephen Meredith
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5 out of 5 stars: Really good analysis from the left of one of the key issues that is holding Labour back from winning elections in the UK. Very persuasively argued, and written in an accessible, easily read style (rather than the heavy academic stuff that some books of this ilk choose) Labour supporters would do well to read this and absorb the lessons within, but I don't expect they will, or at least the hobbyists won't. And while that goes on, they make it massively more likely that the Tories have a free run at each election. This lack of understanding of the vital importance of winning elections vs ideological purity is at the heart of the self indulgent Corbyn disaster. ~ WR Kirby, Amazon
5 out of 5 stars: The book offers a highly insightful analysis of the problems of the left in the UK and is also highly relevant to problems of the left in the U.S and other countries. In addition to compelling arguments and interesting discussion of the historical context, the book brings a range of interesting examples to support its arguments. It is very well written in an accessible style and occasionally - very funny. I highly recommend it. ~ , Amazon
5 out of 5 stars: Bought this book out of curiosity but pleased I did. It's both an informative and entertaining read. I would recommend giving this book a go, chances are you will learn something and also find yourself chuckling away too! ~ Amazon Taxman, Amazon
5 out of 5 stars: Want to know why the Left is in such a mess in 2019? Read this book. ~ Jparussell, Amazon
5 out of 5 stars: A Left for itself tackles some of the most controversial and timely current issues, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, feminism and migration. But rather than adding yet another opinion to this endless debate, Swift cleverly points attention towards those who comment on these matters. His book is significant in the sense that it points to the performative identity-driven motivations behind such commentary that in fact are counter-productive in terms of forming any real change around these issues. More importantly he points to the neo-liberal tendencies within such identity-driven actions, that dissolve any communal attempt to break down systems of power, and to the Orientalist aspects of many of these discourses. All this is done with great attention to detail - with several 'pearls' from commentators such as Seumus Milne, Owen Jones and Laurie Penny - and in-depth historical analysis. I really recommend this thought-provoking book. ~ , Amazon
The language and politics [of the Left today] seem to be what motivated Swift, a left-wing academic, to write this angry polemic against almost the entire class of people whom he considers to have led the left and a whole generation astray. The problem, as he says at the beginning, is that “much of the contemporary left is driven not by a desire for real change, but rather by a desire for an enjoyable pastime, and a search for an identity. It is a left for itself.” In other words, they like the idea of herself caring and of there being an enemy that callously doesn’t, but don’t care enough practically (and unromantically) to engage with others so that there’s a realistic chance of changing things. Swift’s explanation for this apparent gap between stated virtues and the ability to endorse a successful strategy for change is that too much of the left is fundamentally unserious. And, he argues, it is unserious because — contrary to its protestations — it has no real dog in the great social fights. This is because — unlike previous lefts — it is educated, wealthier and holds elite values, which distances it from the lives of ordinary people. Politics for the modern left is a hobby, he says, not a necessary way of effecting changes to their circumstances...it is easy enough to encounter the matrix of attitudes that Swift refers to, although he illustrates his book with some of the most vacuous and self-consciously virtuous sentiments expressed by a relatively small group of people who, with one or two exceptions, are products of the Corbyn era. The problem, Swift says, is that these ways of talking and these priorities alienate some of the very people who the “hobbyists”...claim they care most about. And in some situations are in themselves harmful. ~ David Aaronovitch, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a-left-for-itself-by-david-swift-review-corbyn-6zhfm3rp3
Swift argues — persuasively — that contemporary Left-wing politics “is better understood as less of a political movement and more as a form of identity or enjoyable past time”. It has become more a “consumption activity” than a way to improve people’s lives, as the political scientist Eitan Hersh has noted... As Swift writes: “when conservatives say that ‘feminism/anti-racism/LGBT rights have gone too far’ they clearly aren’t talking about the end of gender pay gaps, racist violence or LGBT teen suicides. What they are talking about is the language of online activists and the attention-seeking schemes of identity leftists.” ... As Swift correctly notes, “there is no binary division in society between good and bad, no easy dichotomy between rich, white Tory men on the one hand and women, gays, ethnic minorities and the working class on the other”....Which brings us back to my point about the Left needing a better grasp of what it stands for in the 21st century. Until it works that out, we’ll be hearing a lot more from loud-mouthed hobbyists who, as Swift puts it, are “not motivated by anything as prosaic and tedious as affecting real political change”. And those who need the Left to stand up for them are left out in in the cold. ~ James Bloodworth, author of Hired, longlisted for the Orwell Prize 2019, https://unherd.com/2019/10/how-the-left-lost-all-purpose/
David Swift rides a coach and horses through the self-indulgence, radical chic and bloviating of too much of today’s British left. ~ Professor John Bew, author of Citizen Clem, winner of the Orwell Prize 2017
This is a fascinating and challenging book that covers a lot of ground in a more than accessible manner. In a field where we have very little to go on - the ideology and nature of Britain's apparently rejuvenated Left - it bristles with both sharp detail and general insight. ~ Professor Glen O'Hara, Oxford Brookes University
David Swift stakes-out a difficult but really important political space in this book. He is of the left but launches an assault on a generational cohort of left-wing political activists and their preoccupations and prejudices. His argument is provocative and his style uncompromising. But the underpinning research is careful and his conclusions important. ~ Professor Andrew Hindmoor, author of What's Left Now?, Head of Politics, University of Sheffield
In the sometimes febrile environment of contemporary left politics, this book is a measured and evaluative contribution. David Swift cuts through the rhetoric of often violent and divisive exchanges to uncover the roots, motivations, diverse character and strengths and weaknesses of the current phenomenon of so-called ‘identity politics’. Ranging from recent work by Fukuyama to the journalistic pages of The Spectator and New Statesman and beyond, the book is an important addition and contribution to this widespread and multi-form debate over the rise, impact and reaction to a newly-emboldened and assertive ‘identity left’. ~ Dr Stephen Meredith, John Antcliffe Archives By-Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge, 2018-19 and Head of Politics, University of Central Lancashire
This book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the contemporary state of the left. ~ Professor Matthew Goodwin, author of National Populism: the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy
David Swift astutely diagnoses the pathological narcissism at the heart of what he calls the ‘hobbyist left’, which has captured the Labour Party. With its preoccupation with language and virtue-signalling, and scant interest in the concerns and culture of actual working people, today’s middle-class elitist left no longer speaks to the voters who once gave their support to the Labour Party. ~ Professor Eric Kaufmann, author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities