All over the world, people are rising up against the out-of-touch elites.
Too many commentators still fail to take the culture war seriously. Some tell us that, compared with issues like the cost-of-living crisis, climate change or the war in Ukraine, the culture war is peripheral. Others say the culture war is imagined, an artificial attempt to distract us from the problems that matter. As one commentator in the Guardian argued last year: ‘Something is dishonest about these battles.’
For decades, we were told that politics was a contest between left and right over questions of economics. Many imagine that it is only a matter of time before this ‘real’ politics returns. ‘People on their way to food banks don’t care about identity politics’, the refrain often goes.
One such writer is Henry Mance of the Financial Times, who last year asked, ‘Is Britain tiring of the culture war?’. ‘Perhaps identity politics felt contrived compared with the cost-of-living squeeze’, he wrote. ‘Economic identities have come to the fore again.’
Mance could hardly be more wrong. Because judging by recent developments in the West, it is clear that people’s undoubted concerns about economic conditions do not in any way diminish the impact of the culture war on society.
For some commentators who had previously dismissed the culture war, the penny has finally dropped. Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Paul Krugmanacknowledged that the world has moved on from the 20th-century model, where political conflict is driven by economic concerns. ‘We’re going to miss greed and cynicism’, says Krugman. By this, he means the left-right political paradigm of rapacious right-wing capitalists confronting statist left-wingers.
Krugman recognises that his model of politics has had to change. ‘As late as 2015 or so, I and many others thought we had a fairly good idea about how American politics worked.’ The past focus on economics was a ‘bit like a golden era’, he says, which has now been sadly overtaken by a ‘culture war’. ‘This is no longer just posturing by politicians mainly interested in cutting taxes on the rich; many elected Republicans are now genuine [culture war] fanatics.’