Although the rich live longer than the poor within particular societies, life expectancy is “not related to average national income”, she said, but to degrees of income equality. The same applied to most areas of “social pain” – from mental illness and teenage pregnancy to drug addiction and levels of imprisonment. Thus, a “politics of pain” must be concerned with equality.

Jeremy Gilbert, reader in cultural studies at UEL, expressed annoyance with the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which he noted was to be seen everywhere in the wake of the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers. On one level, he said, it was “kitsch nostalgia” for traditional British stoicism. Yet its “smug self-deprecation” couldn’t conceal the reality that it was also a state exhortation: “Keep Calm and Carry On – or you’ll lose your job, your home, your credit rating and perhaps even your sanity.”

Today’s political rhetoric of “sharing the pain”, Dr Gilbert added, was positively masochistic. Instead of a “righteous anger against the real culprits”, it had led to a kind of “negative solidarity” with groups such as public-sector workers seen as suffering less.

Read full article in Times Higher Education.

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