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About Michael Gardiner

Michael Gardiner is Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at The University of Warwick. His books include The Return of England (2012) and The Constitution of English Literature (2013). 

Articles by Michael Gardiner

This week’s front page editor

Rosemary Bechler is a mainsite editor of openDemocracy

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The BBC and British branding

The corporation’s claims to the public and to neutrality are crucial for the British state and its power across the globe. 

Neoliberalism, child of the Keynesian state

The desire to see neoliberalism as the ’70s ruination of an earlier public consensus, is a desire to which state-backed capital is all too willing to direct us.

The Golden Country: the organic myth of the British constitution

The nostalgic appeal to ‘the spirit of 45’ is embedded in a long myth of ‘public services’ propagated by the culture of Britain’s unwritten constitution.

Sovereignty and the national question

The British media's sidelining of Scotland and its referendum is part of a history in which questions of nationality are smothered by the UK establishment. Today, it is increasingly clear that popular sovereignty is incompatible with the UK state. Yet avoidance is still the name of the 'British' game.

Nationalise the BBC

Throughout its history, the stature of the BBC has depended upon an active suppression of nationality - silencing popular sovereignty through the transmission of British state ideology. Only by nationalisation can the deep changes be made that would enable the institution to provide a truly public service. 

The Last Great British Summer for England

The desperate construction of cultural Britishness observable in this summer's Jubilee and Olympics is just another attempt to conflate British identity with an idealised vision of England. The motivation for those in power is clear: to disguise the gaping constitutional issues that threaten the UK's political authority. 

To be British is to experience nothing

A peculiarly British paralysis is the inheritance of a Burkean experience of time - we incur debts now in return for the promise of an ever-receding future. Yet a sense of immediacy is returning as part of a 'post-British' era.

England and the Guardian's 'Disunited Kingdom'

The British media are now defensively acknowledging a post-imperial constitutional threat they have been silencing for decades.

Michael Gardiner

Hello from 2050. ‘The markets’ have not failed – but non-productive speculation has, and the perpetual-growth model of economics is long gone. Since 2025, tremendous amounts of public funding has subsidised ‘economically-inefficient’ programmes, whose efficiency has increased dramatically. High-speed rail lines now run between Dublin, Sapporo, Marrakesh, and Tehran.

Neither have ‘nations’ failed, but power monopolised in states is gone – nations are civic entities with highly-permeable boundaries, and ethno-fascism has no significant foothold anywhere in the world. Adjustment to GPS and the easy outmanoeuvring of tracking have made the surveillance state obsolete, and people look back with embarrassment at Maoist China, Juche-era North Korea, and the 1979-2027 era of the West Atlantic Confederation now known as ‘Soviet Britain’.

All drugs are legal, formally or de facto, leading to decreases in gangsterism, dependency, and profiteering. In the late 2030s the taboos on ‘cyborg’ technologies such as neural interfacing and memory add-ons were overcome. There are still loose nukes, but they are not an effective terrorist weapon. The demand of the global south for technological and political literacy has meant that world inequality is plummeting – but also that social class has re-emerged as an ongoing core critique, as questions of poverty are seen more holistically.

Nation-state or country-state: a response to Gagnon from the UK

In this response to Jean-Paul Gagnon on the nation-state, Michael Gardiner argues that cultural homogeneity is unnecessary as a property of nationhood. Rather, participatory citizenship is what is at stake. Resorting to the term 'country-state' would open the gates to half-formed ethnicism and ethno-culturalism.

'English Literature' as ideology

This essay traces the cultural embodiment of the British state in ‘English Literature’ in the period from 1790 to 1810, its uses and abuses, and the demise of this seminal metaphor for the ‘nationless nation’ which began in the 1970’s. The latter period saw a post-imperial unravelling of the culture of the unwritten British constitution, where the former had seen its settlement.
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