According to Derbyshire the mainstream left in Britain is "intellectually hollowed out". He thinks it timely that a new pamphlet has been released titled What Next for Labour? Ideas for the Progressive Left.
One of the contributors to the pamphlet, Sunder Katwala, argues that the technocratic management of the market isn't enough. Instead, the left must focus on elaborating,
an autonomous moral conception, independent of, and ultimately sovereign over, the mere notions of efficiency and rational 'tidying up' of capitalist society into which socialism is in danger of degenerating.
Katwala is a Fabian socialist who wants to go back to basics. He wants more emphasis on the autonomous individual rather than on technocratic efficiency.
Then there is the suggestion made by Jon Cruddas, a Labour Party MP, and Jonathan Rutherfod, an academic:
New Labour, Cruddas and Rutherford imply, has worried too much about individual liberty and not enough about equality. The key 'fault line' in the coming debates on the left, they argue, will be between those who see the market as the best mechanism for delivering the autonomy so prized in modern societies, and those who think that genuine freedom is a collective achievement. Or, as Katwala puts it, between those for whom autonomy is the ultimate end (call them "liberals") and those whose principal concern is with how autonomy is distributed (call them "social democrats").
Read this carefully and you'll see just how limited a choice we're being offered here.
Katwala's "liberals" think that individual autonomy is the ultimate end. So do his "social democrats". The only difference between them is that the "liberals" (in the European not American sense) believe that autonomy is maximised by individuals pursuing their self-interest in a market; the "social democrats" are more focused on the equal distribution of autonomy through "collective" (by which they mean state) action.
This debate is generations old. It is politics with a walking stick. And it is radically reductive: we are supposed to assume that the ultimate end is one single good, namely individual autonomy - with politics divided between those who favour equality (in the distribution of autonomy) and those who favour liberty (fewer impediments to the practice of autonomy).
The task for traditionalists isn't to take sides in this debate. It's to move beyond its limitations.
What we should be discussing is whether autonomy (or any other single good) can be taken as the sole organising principle of society; what we are logically committing ourselves to when autonomy becomes the highest end; what other goods must be sacrificed in the attempt to maximise autonomy; and whether the pursuit of autonomy has internal coherence.