Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bob's evidence

Obviously, this banking scandal is another reason why honesty and integrity are hot topics for social scientists. Let me focus on a detail, like Adorno analysing fascism via modern car doors (here, aphorism 19).

In his evidence to the committee yesterday, Bob Diamond called all the MPs by their first name. This replacement of "Mr. X" by "Jim" is actually an ongoing trend of our democratic age. I think it is a loss of a small area of respectful distance. It also leads to two comic phenomena:

(1) On the radio, "Dave" tells "Ed", his sworn opponent, that he is politically incompetent, his policies are bad for Britain and borderline treason, etc.
(2) Using your interlocutor's first name as a way to patronise them, as if you were their kindergarten teacher. Which is then reciprocated, leading to a kind of weaponized chumminess.

My students tend to be schizophrenic, either calling me "Professor Hugh-Jones" or "Yo Dave". Personally, I am fine with Dave. When I demand to be called Dr Hugh-Jones, I will definitively have become an Old Fart. Maybe skip the Yo though.

Perhaps Adorno -- Theo -- has the mot juste in aphorism 20: "The matter-of-factness [Sachlichkeit] between human beings which clears away the ideological ornamentation between them, has itself already become an ideology of those who wish to treat human beings as things."