Unmoved by social mobility

The irony of it. We live, as the coalition rightly tell us, in a society weighed down by regulation and restraint. Ours is indeed a political culture that strangles ambition and enterprise, and stultifies rather than stimulates. There is an absence of big ideas (whatever Big Society advocates might say), and – despite the dire economic situation – little idea about how we might invest in our collective future. And yet for all the immobility to rage against, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility is silent on these matters. Indeed it is nothing of the sort – neither a strategy, nor really ‘for’ social mobility in any meaninful sense. It is rather a continuation of New Labourist top-down tinkering in people’s lives. The mantra of early intervention has given way to Total Intervention, from the ‘foundation’ years, through the transition to an increasingly infantilised ‘adulthood’. Based on the wrong-headed notion that we are otherwise doomed, our helpless immobility is assumed at the outset. It doesn’t chart a way forward or suggest how a better future for all might be achieved. The best it dare hope for is an evening out of what are poor prospects for UK PLC. A concern for the relative ‘performance’ of society’s most disadvantaged – be they NEETS or social housing tenants – may sound progressive. But in the absence wider social ambitions, this apparent striving for Cleggite fairness can only further diminish people’s capacities to take control of their own futures.

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