Plot Thickens in LSE-Gaddafi Affair: Anthony Giddens Too?

  • February 22, 2011

Education & Emancipation

Not just David Held and Howard Davies cuddled up to the Gaddafi regime. Anthony Giddens, former LSE Director and advisor to Tony Blair, also publicly defended the Libyan dictator back in 2007.

Anthony Giddens, one of the most-cited sociologists of our time, former Director of the London School of Economics, Tony Blair’s political mentor and the intellectual godfather of the centrist ‘Third Way‘, is as deeply implicated in the row over the LSE’s overtly close connections with the Gaddafi regime as his academic pupil, David Held.

In 2007, Giddens visited Gaddafi to talk to him about democracy. Afterwards, Giddens wrote a piece for the Guardian in which he expressed his confidence that Gaddafi would lead the way to political reform. Despite the fact that hundreds of people, like this grocer, have  been assassinated by Gaddafi’s henchmen over the years, Giddens found it necessary to play down the brutality of the Gaddafi regime:

As one-party states go, Libya is not especially repressive. Gadafy seems genuinely popular. Our discussion of human rights centred mostly upon freedom of the press.

Once again, such is the Great Liberal Betrayal, the true nature of the Third Way exposed for what it is: pragmatic opportunism and the sell-out of all the values of liberalism, from the destruction of the social democratic welfare state, to the institution of repressive anti-terror measures at home, and on to the support for oil-rich dictators abroad.

In another article, I already stressed the deep-seated fear among cosmopolitan liberals for democratic revolution. This fear of revolution fed into an ineffectual, meaningless reformism that now rings about as hollow as the Third Way’s domestic obsession with free-market social democracy (if there ever was an oxymoron!).

But on Gaddafi, I will allow Lord Giddens the opportunity to embarrass himself:

Will real progress be possible only when Gadafy leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite. If he is sincere in wanting change, as I think he is, he could play a role in muting conflict that might otherwise arise as modernisation takes hold. My ideal future for Libya in two or three decades’ time would be a Norway of North Africa: prosperous, egalitarian and forward-looking. Not easy to achieve, but not impossible.

Indeed, Lord Giddens, it is not impossible at all! Unfortunately for you, however, it did turn out to be impossible within the contours of your Third Way reformism. I wish that you and your cosmopolitan peers at the LSE had opened your eyes to that reality a long time ago.

Now, unfortunately for you and luckily for the people of Libya, the LSE’s cosmopolitan liberals find themselves once again on the wrong side of history.

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Jerome Roos

Jerome Roos is an LSE Fellow in International Political Economy at the London School of Economics, and the founding editor of ROAR Magazine. His first book, Why Not Default? The Political Economy of Sovereign Debt, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

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