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ResPonses to Occupy LSX

The best of the rest: Commentaries on Occupy LSX

The LSX protest, now into its fourth week, has transitioned full circle from bearing the sympathy of the Church to splitting the hierarchy of St Paul’s, culminating in two resignations and palpable tension in the Church of England itself and for City workers of all stripes. The ResPublica team has highlighted a few of what we believe to be the most interesting responses to the LSX protest so far.


The Cathedral’s connected Institute has now of course published its long-awaited report. Entitled Value and Values: Perceptions of Ethics in the City Today, the outgoing Canon Giles Fraser calls ‘abstract’ and value-bereft markets to account:

“The old City may have been an exclusive and inward looking club -- but the benefit of clubs is that members often have a better developed sense of values and are able to hold each other to account for failing to live up to the club's standards. As Albert Schweitzer put it: "Ethics is a state of solidarity with other human beings."

Whilst its research reveals the expected, with the exception a few particularly interesting insights, it is the connection between morality and ‘the City’ that has recently received most comment.


Most notably, Ken Costa, former chairman of Lazard International, has expressed the need for the City to reconnect with ethics:

 

"I have been in the City since before the Big Bang whose 25th anniversary came this week. I have been through several recessions but I cannot recall the underlying sustained anger across all social levels – from dinner parties to demonstrations – aimed at bankers and the market economy as a whole…When such a wide range of people are singing a tune perhaps discordant to a City worker's ears but seemingly in tune with the global view that the market economy has failed to deliver growth, jobs and hope, we need to listen. The cure is not more legislation, or increased regulation. It is the pressing need to reconnect the financial with the ethical."

 

Dr. Adrian Pabst, writing for ABC Religion and Ethics, has highlighted similar concerns:

"Global finance has become disconnected from ethical or social goals, while governments of both the Left and Right have either replaced mutualist arrangements among works with centralised, bureaucratic welfare, or outsourced the delivery of public goods to the private service providers – or, indeed both.”

 

…And pinpoints the twin principles of subsidiarity and solidarity that characterise Catholic Social Teaching as a way in which we must proceed.

General Lord Dannatt has also made reference to a “loss of moral compass,” not just within the armed forces or FS sector, but across society as a whole. At a lecture hosted by Theos, he commented:

"In past generations, certainly in this country, it was often assumed that young men and women coming into the Armed Forces would have absorbed an understanding of the core values and standards of behaviour required by the military from their family or from within their wider community… Indeed, such standards would have typified our society more generally. I would suggest such a presumption cannot be made today."

In the Telegraph, Mary Riddell issued a call for action to our Government and Opposition leaders, asserting the protesters were ‘symbolic of public yearning’:

“Justice is not the exclusive province of the squeezed middle, any more than it is the birthright of the top 1 per cent. The cry for fairness emanating from St Paul’s, whether voiced by urban mystics or posh protesters in North Face jackets, has been issued on behalf of the teenager with no hope of work, the isolated pensioner left without social care and the reject left to rot in jail.

Reluctance to address the plight of less voter-friendly outsiders is proof that the road to civic virtue is strewn not with roses but with grenades. Yet politicians will never be trusted again unless they face down the forces of repression and privilege and walk this dangerous path. Both leaders have promised a better society. Britain’s future hangs on the honouring of that pledge.” 

Whilst the Independent picked up on Cameron’s hesitant backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “call for greater responsibility by high earners in the City, while playing down the idea of a "Robin Hood tax" on the banks, Ed Miliband broke his silence on the Occupy protest. Writing in the Observer, the leader of the Labour Party backed the philosophy of the protesters, asserting that they were representative of a much broader movement:

“…the problem is a system of irresponsible, predatory capitalism based on the short term, rather than productive, responsible behaviour which benefits business and most people in the long term… You do not have to be in a tent to feel angry. People feel let down by aspects of business, finance and politics which seem in touch with the richest 1% – but badly out of touch with the reality facing the other 99%. They wonder if things can be different — and whether politics can make a difference.”

St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Church has itself attracted much commentary over the past couple of weeks – from its dealings with the protesters to its proper role in society.

Many have offered a rather critical view of the Church’s influence and response, but like the comments of Suzanne Moore in the Guardian, have also signalled toward a great opportunity:

"Indeed 200 or so people in tents appear to have created an organisation that can act more effectively than the Church of England. Though this was never meant to be a clash with the church, it seems entirely suitable. When politics fails – and it has with the banks – we end up talking about morality. The church has now finally decided that some of the most extreme practices of neo-liberalism – the selling on of bundles of risk by rich people paid for with the homes and jobs of poor people – is not morally healthy. Who knew?”

And indeed, elsewhere, a number of commentators have been calling for action from the Church to utilise this protest as a way into the debate. ResPublica Trustee, Professor John Milbank stressed the opportunity available to be seized:

“Thus in the present instance, perhaps the bishops of London and Canterbury think that it is their prime duty to sustain inner-church governmental protocols. But if that is the case, then they are making the most massive mistake, whose fallout could be considerable. The current event is a unique exception and it requires an entirely exceptional response from the highest quarters.”

A view echoed in a Guardian editorial piece, which called directly on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Shortly afterward did we hear of the Church’s U-turn against legal action by Bishop Chartres, and read the Archbishop’s words in the Financial Times. Both voices chimed with that of the protesters, in calling for a “connection between finance and ethics and human flourishing” (Bishop Chartes).

The vital role of, and perhaps need for, the Church with regards to such issues was also amongst the comments made by the Archbishop:

“The Church of England and the Church Universal have a proper interest in the ethics of the financial world and in the question of whether our financial practices serve those who need to be served – or simply become idols that themselves demand uncritical service.”

Indeed, and finally, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie has alluded to the evident yearning by the protesters and others for the Church’s input to such concerns:

St Paul’s Cathedral and the protestors are learning that they have a surprising amount in common…. The last fortnight reveals how much an allegedly secular society still looks to its Church for meaning and for value…


Forthcoming work from our British Civic Life workstream, one of the three core workstreams of the ResPublica Trust which oversees all of ResPublica's domestic work, will continue to explore the role of the Church and faith groups in society.  Our New Economies workstream will also generate activity central to the debate surround moral markets and community-based capitalism.  For more information, see here

If you have a response to Occupy LSX, or a response to the responses, please leave a comment and join the debate.

Comments on: ResPonses to Occupy LSX

Gravatar Malcolm Rasala 07 December 2011
David Hume (1711-1776) "When divines are declaiming against the common behaviour and conduct of the world, they always represent this principle (morality and justice) the strongest imaginable (which indeed it is), and describe almost all human kind as lying under the influence of it, and sunk into the deepest lethargy and unconcern about their religious interests. Yet these same divines, when they refute their speculative antagonists, suppose the motives of religion to be so powerful that, without them, it were impossible for civil society to subsist; nor are they ashamed of so palpable a contradiction. It is certain from experience that the smallest grain of natural honesty and benevolence has more effect on men"s conduct, than the most pompous views, suggested by theological theories and systems. .....r/>r/>......the motives of vulgar superstition have no great influence on general conduct; nor is their operation favourable to morality in the instances, where they predominate..... Is there any maxim in politics more certain and infallible, than that both the number and the authority of priests should be confined within very narrow limits, and that the civil magistrate ought, for ever, to keep his fasces and axes from such dangerous hands?.....Whence it comes then, that, in fact, the utmost a wise magistrate can propose with regard to popular religions is, as far as possible, to make a saving game of it, and to prevent their pernicious consequences with regard to society"...... r/>r/>www.10muses.com
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Gravatar Cosmo Montagu 12 November 2011
This is a powerful and interesting piece by Slovaj Zizek in the Guardian. Explores the idea that forming demands and pursuing change through the usual channels only benefits those who control the system.r/>r/>http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/26/occupy-protesters-bill-clinton?cat=commentisfree&type=articler/>r/>https://twitter.com/#!/CosmoMontagu
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Detailed Summary

Date Published
10 November 2011

Issue(s)
New Economies, Innovative Markets

About The Authors

Emma Baron

Emma is a former research assistant at ResPublica, working within the British Civic Life workstream. She is a graduate i...