Radical?

I was interested in the comments on Geoff Mulgan’s Observer piece aboutNESTA’s 50 Radicals project. This comment captures one of the themes of critics:

The most significant thing about this entire exercise is NESTA’s work at redefining ‘radical’ towards a frame that supports is own neo-liberal agenda supporting entrepreneurship – rather than radical political change. Glad so to see so many people in the comments questioning the use of the word radical in this context.

I pretty much agree.

I also noticed that supporters of the list wheeled out the tired old trope suggesting critics were “sneerers” or “armchair critics” who were being “negative”. Surely the great radicals of history were all pretty “negative” about things like class privilege slavery, oppression etc etc. I daresay they were dismissed as sneerers too.

There’s something glib about setting oneself up as a champion of innovation and drawing up a list like this. It feels to me like an attempt to share in the glamour of the innovator without any of the hard graft and risk-taking that tends to go with the territory. And a way of avoiding harder and scarier questions about the very high levels of inequality in this country which probably have a crushing effect on our ability to innovate and grow at every level.

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