27 September 2019

John Falzon on the need to reclaim ‘aspiration’ as a collective virtue: “Perhaps unions, and indeed progressive grass-roots social movements in general, are hated by neoliberal governments today precisely because they are a vehicle for collective aspiration, historically showing that the real improvements to the lives of ordinary working people come when they are fought for collectively. Rather than limiting aspiration, which is a common neoliberal claim, unions organise aspiration… I cannot think of a single instance where, even though the legislation was fought for in parliament, the struggles that informed the legislation was not fought for by grass-roots movements for social justice and social change, movements that, like the union movement, collectively aspired to create a better society. Many of these achievements have been dismantled by successive governments that have prosecuted a neoliberal agenda, while reframing the concept of aspiration, making it appear as something that happens most authentically at the individual level, with collective activism and advocacy allegedly getting in its way. There’s a difference between aspiration and acquisition. We need to reframe aspiration as the oxygen that working people collectively breathe”.