David Goodhart founded and edited the political magazine Prospect. Now an author and journalist, he has written a series of books that have been seen as both diagnostic and prophetic in terms of what actually happened in politics. As a centre-left commentator, he believes in more local control and less dependence on universal state control. He also believes strongly that education is often a force, not for good, but social division, calling for reforms back towards a balance between the more academic, knowledge professionals (Head), caring professionals (Heart) and vocational skills (Hand).
The Road to Somewhere
Although written prior to the Brexit vote, it turned out to be prophetic and a text that explained the cause of the Brexit vote, through an analysis of the way the UK population has developed culturally and demographically.
The Road to Somewhere (2017) was prophetic in seeing the country split, according to Goodhart, down cultural lines:
Somewheres - attached to place and local community (~50%)
Anywheres - educated urban liberals (~20-25%)
His thesis is that the Anywheres now have too much power and tend to hold on to that power, especially in London but also in politics, the professions and media. In particular, he points to the ballooning of Higher Education and decimation of vocational opportunities. This, he thinks, has led to a core values divide, where one side looks down upon the other as ‘uneducated’. He sees this as unhealthy in a democracy.
Head, Heart and Hand
Goodhart’s Head, Heart and Hand: Why intelligence is over-rewarded, manual workers matter, and caregivers deserve more respect (2021) is a plea for the rebalancing of society, economics and rewards away from the Head (cognitive work) towards the Hand (making and manual work) and Heart (health and care work). We have reached what he calls 'Peak Head', the focus on funnelling everyone towards University degrees on a single route towards a single, cognitive elite. Many of the innovations in our past, such as the spinning jenny and steam engine were not driven by the University system and entire economies in the east, China, South Korea and Taiwan, were built, not on a University system (they came later) but by a more rounded approach to development.
He sees education as a driver, not for social change, but increasing social inequalities, arguing that educators, at all levels – schools, colleges, Universities and workplaces - need to face up to the hypocrisy behind an economic system that rewards ‘Head’ (knowledge) workers at the expense of all others. Educational stratification has not created a better world, he claims, it has divided us and rewarded people unfairly. These inequalities have stretched societies to breaking point.
The danger, he sees, is that this elite will suffer badly when technology replaces their work quicker than it may replace the refuse collector or child-carer. What he recommends is policy built around the Heart, Hand and Head triumvirate.
Our educational system is hopelessly lop-sided towards the University sector and Goodhart explains how this hostage taking of society, property and money has evolved. He backs up his arguments building on Caplan’s work on education, which shows that, economically, too much money is wasted on ‘signalling’ in Universities and that alternatives have to be found, for the general good, but also on the basis of avoiding social unrest. The deification of Higher Education has been at the expense of the majority who do not go there.
Goodhart has been criticised as an apologist for racist, ant-immigraion attitudes, along with an inaccurate demographic breakdown of UK society. He acknowledges that such demographic categories are not necessarily verifiable and quantifiably accurate and the fact that they predicted the way people voted, not only in the Brexit vote but in other elections has given his analysis some cache.
Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere became essential reading for those interested in explaining, not just Brexit but other political upheavals, such as Trump in the US and the Gilet Jaunes in France. He was similarly prophetic with Head, Heart and Hands, when Covid struck, and our reliance on essential workers, the very people he talked about as Heart (carers, nurses etc) and Hands (delivery drivers, supermarket workers etc) kept the system going. Across these books he contrasts the centrifugal forces of hyper-globalisation stretched supply chains that rely on the free movement of goods and capital, with a more centripetal set of ideas around the local, social stability and solidarity. His prophetic writing has therefore made him an influential commentator and contributor to the idea that we must rethink education and work, not simply in terms of having more but of rebalancing towards vocational skills, also being more sensitive the needs of society as a whole.
Goodhart, D., 2021. Head, Hand, Heart: Why intelligence is over-rewarded, manual workers matter, and caregivers deserve more respect. Simon and Schuster.
Goodhart, D., 2017. The road to somewhere: The populist revolt and the future of politics. Oxford University Press.
Goodhart, D., 2013. The British dream: Successes and failures of post-war immigration. Atlantic Books Ltd.