By Jonathan Cook and cross-posted from his blog, Jonathan-Cook.net
Political developments in Britain appear more than a little confusing at the moment.
The parliamentary Labour party is in open revolt against a leader recently elected with the biggest mandate in the party’s history. Most Labour MPs call Jeremy Corbyn “unelectable”, even though they have worked tirelessly to undermine him from the moment he became leader, never giving him a chance to prove whether he could win over the wider British public.
Now they are staging a leadership challenge and trying to rig the election by denying tens of thousands of Labour members who recently joined the party the chance to vote. If the MPs fail in the coming election, as seems almost certain, indications are that they will continue their war of attrition against Corbyn, impervious to whether their actions destroy the party they claim to love.
Meanwhile, the Guardian, the house paper of the British left – long the preferred choice of teachers, social workers and Labour activists – has been savaging Corbyn too, all while it haemorrhages readers and sales revenue. Online, the Guardian’s reports and commentaries about the Labour leader – usually little more than character assassination or the reheating of gossip and innuendo – are ridiculed below the line by its own readers. And yet it ploughs on regardless.
The Labour party ignores its members’ views, just as the Guardian ignores its readers’ views. What is going on?
Strangely, a way to understand these developments may have been provided by a scientific philosopher named Thomas Kuhn. Back in the 1960s he wrote an influential book called the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. His argument was that scientific thought did not evolve in a linear fashion, as scientific knowledge increased. Rather, modern human history had been marked by a series of forceful disruptions in scientific thought that he termed “paradigm shifts”. One minute a paradigm like Newtonian mechanics dominated, the next an entirely different model, like quantum mechanics, took its place – seemingly arriving as if out of nowhere.
Importantly, a shift, or revolution, was not related to the moment when the previous scientific theory was discredited by the mounting evidence against it. There was a lag, usually a long delay, between the evidence showing the new theory was a better “fit” and the old theory being discarded.
The reason, Kuhn concluded, was because of an emotional and intellectual inertia in the scientific community. Too many people – academics, research institutions, funding bodies, pundits – were invested in the established theory…