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My 350 on BREXIT: The will of the people in post-truth times

Negotiating with the EU may well prove much less challenging than negotiating with ourselves.

The primary material interest bankrolling UKIP and the Leave campaign turns out – as far as it is possible to currently ascertain – to have been the section of the UK hedge fund and financial product industry which can expect to profit from the conversion of the UK into a Greater Jersey, an offshore aircraft carrier for the global derivatives and tax avoidance sector. Andrea Leadsom's ex-employer and brother-in-law is indeed a Jersey-based hedge fund owner, and Mrs Leadsom, at least initially, resisted disclosure of her own tax affairs. Seldom can so many who imagine they have nothing to lose, have been mobilised in the name of mass self-immiseration by so few who have something to gain.

As Cohn-Bendit says, and I think his point merits attention, to address this kind of situation there needs to be a major new effort of public and political information, dare one even say of education, dedicated to the restitution of something remotely resembling a truth-based democratic polity. Academics and public intellectuals should play their part in this effort: Michel Dougan of Liverpool University has been one exemplary public voice to date. They can help roll back the toxic wave of slur and smear which has polluted UK public space in recent weeks and months. What they must absolutely not be doing is to pander to the conformism of the moment by embracing the language of demagogic anti-politics.

The immediate task of the next UK government must be to identify and evaluate, in the added light of recent developments, through parliamentary deliberation and public discussion, the least catastrophic and actually possible set of economic and constitutional arrangements consistent with the expressed preferences of the electorate and the public interest. This process will need to be somewhat more rigorous than the culture of licensed and unchallenged mendacity which characterised the victorious Leave campaign in the referendum debate. Beneath its superficial insouciance and triumphalism, the Leave camp, which knows well by what means it has prevailed to date, is well aware that its record and methods are highly vulnerable to any serious scrutiny.

Negotiating with the EU may well prove much less challenging than negotiating with ourselves, re-establishing public concern for truth in place of post-truth, and resisting the affective turn towards neo-imperial nationalist self-delusion.

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

About the author

Colin Gordon starting translating Foucault, and then got to know him, while doing research at Oxford in the 1970s.
He has been writing about Foucault's work, and related themes, on and off ever since. He edited and co-translated the volume Power/Knowledge (1980), and co-edited, co-translated and co-wrote The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (1991). Much of his work is available here.

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