23 February 2007

The rise of therapeutic politics

When looking at policymaking bodies, what is particularly striking is how unimportant outcomes are in determining both how policy is made, and who makes it.

…policies are often adopted on the basis of less careful analysis than their importance warrants, leaving wide room for mistakes and misperceptions. Forces of knowledge destruction are often stronger than those favoring knowledge creation. Hence states have an inherent tendency toward primitive thought, and the conduct of public affairs is often polluted by myth, misinformation, and flimsy analysis. Why states believe foolish ideas: non-self-evaluation by states and societies, Stephen Van Evera, MIT Political Science Department and Securities Studies Program, 10 January 2002, version 3.5.

In our complex economies, outcomes can be difficult to trace accurately to the events and people that generated them. Our extreme specialisation increases the length of the chain between producers and consumers and the time lags between cause and effect. Moreover, it increases people’s alienation from each other, particularly between policymakers and stakeholders. The result is that appearances, personalities, and emotional appeal assume a great importance.
Therapeutic politics eschews matters of policy and principle and attempts to establish a point of contact in the domain of the emotion with an otherwise estranged electorate. …. The shift in rhetoric from standing up for what is ‘right’ to upholding what one feels good about signifies the incorporation of emotionalism into the heart of political decision-making. Therapy culture, Frank Furedi, Routledge, 2004 (Chapter 3, pp 60-61).

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