Churchill’s Compassionate Conservatism
A Burkean conservative who always sought a balance between tradition and change, Churchill understood the necessity of using state power to solve social problems. Churchill presents an alternative portrait of conservatism. In the spirit of his Tory predecessor, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Churchill wanted to revive the alliance between nobles and workers so as to curb the power and dominance of the bourgeoisie. Heeding the dictates of his conscience, Churchill crossed the aisle to join the Liberal Party in 1904, whereupon he worked with David Lloyd George and others to enact policies that would provide economic security and improve conditions for the working class. Churchill later worked alongside his peers in the Liberal Party, including Lloyd George, to pass the National Insurance Act of 1911.
In particular, Churchill was responsible for spearheading the provision on unemployment insurance, but he also enthusiastically embraced the act’s section that created National Health Insurance for British workers. Ardent in his belief that the National Insurance Act bolstered Britain’s market economy and militated against the dreaded socialist alternative, Churchill continued to support modest expansions of the welfare state during the interwar period. A Liberal economist who had worked for Churchill during the creation of the National Insurance Act, Beveridge called for a dramatic expansion of national insurance that would offer every British citizen comprehensive protection from the vagaries of life, including poverty, unemployment, and illness. A year later Churchill expressed more explicitly his support for universal health insurance. As his wartime speeches and memos demonstrate, Churchill favored a more active state that would provide cradle-to-grave social insurance and equality of opportunity.
Without having to work directly with other party leaders, as he had done under the coalition government, Churchill could have slashed or even repealed many of the programs for which Labour had worked so hard, including its crown jewel, the National Health Service. In the end, Winston Churchill can be remembered for bolstering the National Health Service and, more generally, helping create and expand the modern welfare state in the United Kingdom.
Adventures in Capitalism
During one of those calls, I was strongly urged to go check out the Tsukiji Fish Market and its famous tuna auction, which takes place at 5:30 AM. Fortunately, the Women’s Startup Lab founder, Ari Horie, was both awake and willing to indulge my quixotic desire. Eventually, we made our way to the center of the complex, where, by peering under partially raised garage doors, we could just make out the preparations underway for the tuna auction. Whole flash-frozen tuna were being lined up for inspection by an army of Japanese men with wicked-looking fish hooks. Once inside, we got a much better look at the tuna, laid out like a giant set of fishy chess pieces all over the concrete, ice-strewn floor.
All told, we watched the three different tuna auctions, then found the actual tourist-accessible part of the market and had a breakfast of fine sushi at 6 AM. The fish was very fresh and very delicious. The first thing Ari and I did after getting through customs was to visit a Japanese convenience store for snacks. Rather than a cumbersome paper pouch or a sealed K-Cup, poured into a styrofoam cup, the coffee package folds out with origami-like precision to precisely fit the delicate, fine bone china cups provided in my hotel room. Instead of the American system of a heatproof disposable cup with a cardboard sleeve to prevent burns, the Japanese way is to have disposable cups that fit into a plastic adapter that holds the cup, protects the drinker’s hand, and offers a handle so that you can grasp the cup with a few of your fingers and drink your tea in a civilized and genteel manner rather than barbarically holding a cardboard cup with your whole hand.
For the most part, Tokyo looks like a much cleaner, much more elegant, much more Japanese Manhattan. I’ve already had Chinese food twice! The food is excellently prepared and delicious, but I feel like I’m visiting Japan to enjoy Japanese culture, not Chinese or American culture. Spoken Japanese is incredibly fast and very melodic and animated. We think of the Japanese as reserved because their English is slow and formal, but their Japanese conversations make most English conversations pale in comparison.
Review: A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism
A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism offers a key contextual primer for food researchers and activists. Chapter 1: How Our Capitalist Food System Came to Be. By the end of the nineteenth century, mercantilism, colonialism, and industrialization had all combined a new form of global capitalism that spread powerfully, if unevenly, around the earth. Unless we change the underlying value relations of our food system-the contradiction between food as essential for human life and food as a commodity-we will be working on the margins of a system that is structurally designed for profit rather than need, speculation rather than equity, and extraction rather than resilience. If we want to change the power of commodities in the food system, we will have to change the way we value the labor in our food as well.
Our attempts to transform the food system hinge on changing the social relation embedded in our food. Because food is both a commodity and an existential necessity, and because our food system impacts all other aspects of our social and economic system because we all eat, the social relation of food is pivotal in terms of human well-being. We can’t change the food system without transforming capitalism. We can’t transform capitalism without changing the food system. The challenge for our planet is not how to produce food, but how to keep smallholders on the land while sustainably producing healthy food.
The challenge of building a public sphere for the twenty first century is not to re-create the past, but to build a new, transnational public sphere that has a critical analysis of capitalism, builds social legitimacy for movements for food justice and food sovereignty, and connects them with the broad environmental and social justice movements. We need a movement that is able to forge a militantly democratic food system in favour of the poor and oppressed globally and locally, and that effectively rolls back the elite, neoliberal food regime. Understanding why, where, and how oppression manifests itself in the food system, recognizing it within our food movement and our organizations, is not extra work for transforming our food system.