The website of Aidan Foster-Carter. Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, Leeds University.


Beliefs, if any

It's tempting, and would in some ways be accurate, to leave this page blank. Maybe in the modern world all our beliefs are permanently "under construction", or ought to be. But mine seem more in flux than most, nowadays. It's not a comfortable feeling. In a way I envy those who still cling to the old creeds or credos; yet follow them I cannot.

I used to be fairly certain what I believed. Spiritually, I was brought up, baptized and confirmed in the Anglican church. Ever doubtful of doctrine, in my late teens I found the Quakers. I continue to admire them, and read their literature; yet they too, in their founder George Fox's phrase, no longer "speak to my condition". Nothing much does; but then that is my fault. If I've become spiritually dead, it is mainly for lack of active seeking, this many a year. (Those of you reading this who think it's all nonsense and a wild goose chase are, with all respect, missing something very fundamental indeed.)

Politically, I became a socialist at 14 and a Marxist at 19. Now I am neither, though it is hard to say precisely when I fell off either bandwagon. But I seem for a long time now to have been in political retreat: on the losing side. Marxism? Nonsense in theory and crime in practice. All of us who fellow-travelled are in my view no less morally culpable than anyone who was pro-Nazi. The communist body-count is much higher. That we Leninists had higher ideals merely adds one more crime to the list: betrayal.

Democratic socialism was nobler, yet a lost cause also. Much as I hated Mrs Thatcher, in retrospect something like her had to happen. A liberal now, I broadly accept both the sociology and politics of Adam Smith and J S Mill: not rampant free-marketry in either case. Similarly, having once embraced dependency theory, I now find myself in the globalization camp. Not that it works well, nor is innocent of imperialism; but like democracy, it seems the least worst way - and anyhow, inexorable. No more utopias! Karl Popper's piecemeal social engineering is quite enough to be getting on with.

My country? New Labour threw out the baby with the bathwater; means replace ends, spin subverts substance. I don't like Britain now; though I'm fond of Yorkshire. I've always felt more Irish than English, but my country - if I must have one - is Europe. I don't care for identity politics: my race is human; must I be gendered? But I grow old.

Socially, I'm a raging liberal: pro tolerance, inclusion, welfare - but also enterprise and individual responsibility. I hate fundamentalisms, yet feel as powerless as all of us libs to stem the growing tides of separatism and rank mutual intolerance. This is so painfully far from the brave new world we flower children thought we were creating. God only knows what our planet will look like in 10, 50, 100, 1000 years from now.

Culturally, I look on aghast as we wilfully drown what remains of our civilization in a slurry of dumbing down: sleaze, sex, violence, trivia. I rarely watch TV or Hollywood films now; glad I'm no longer raising children amidst so much crap. Yet this is not the plaint of a conservative. Daring, experimental and new are good, nay essential; only let them be real, deep, and true. Must the market mean lowest common denominator?

Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will (Gramsci; maybe I was a bit hard on Marxists). So what's left? what's right? To stand up for values: honesty, decency, beauty, truth, e/quality, compassion, liberty, peace. Perhaps we can't have them all; some days I worry we may lose the lot. Yet still I keep a sense of humour. One has to.