Critique of Post-Paternalist Reason
Strange that anything 'educational' or 'difficult' is deemed to be oppressive and elitist, whereas programmes which explicitly tell people (usually working class) how to dress, eat and clean their houses are perfectly acceptable. It's OK to suggest that someone looks haggard because they have neglected the botox (rather than because they have been doing a miserable job and looking after kids for the last thirty years) but anything even remotely smelling of cultural or intellectual improvement is verboten.
This puts the dominant cultural logic in a nutshell. The disturbing thing though is the sheer popularity of these programmes, the revelling in abjection and general crapness of British life: it amazes me on the rare occasions I watch TV just how much of this stuff there is (my Mum is a fan), whole cable channels devoted to these injunctions at the proles. Isn't the makeover fixation linked though, to the obverse phenomenon of a collective collapse of self-respect? Walk round most British high streets and see a George Grosz landscape of illness, abjection, ugliness and grim poverty (I include myself in most of those categories, by the way). The strange willingness, when told by the master class what shit you are to cry 'yes! That's exactly what we are!', encapsulated by the less that proletarian (Kelvin Mackenzie - Dulwich, Rebekah Wade - The Sorbonne, etc...) Sun creating a grotesque caricature of the working class to its almost universal approval.
To digress, there was certainly a definite discourse of 'how clean is your house?' in the intellectual circles which eventually coalesced into the postwar Beveridge/Attlee/Reith establishment: think of Bill Brandt's photos of East End families in grossly dilapidated houses for Picture Post, the Modernist obsession with dust and dirt, which would presumably conspire to make the inhabitants tubercular; the worry that council house designers had that tenants would store coal in their baths, and so forth. The line between Shutte-Lihotsky's kitchen and How clean is your Arse is not an unbroken one, though: though there might have been a definite paternalist discourse of cleanness, of injunctions at the proletariat, it was always joined up with some sort of systemic critique: the assumption was never that people chose to live like this, or that if they did, their choice was frankly wrong and they had to be convinced otherwise.
Having said that, and on the back of the comments box posts below (evidently I should write about the SI more often!) it's clear that paternalism was never enough. The problem now is that the demise of state socialism and social democracy leads to a certain rearguard action - a defence of both of these experiments against the still widespread calumnies, up to a point - which can obscure the critiques of both from the Situationist, Trotskyist, Surrealist (etc) sections of the Left. This blog is wholly guilty of this, of course, mainly due to my own somewhat morbid fixation on both. Proletarian self-organisation would be, of necessity, opposed to them as much as to Neo-Liberalism. Let's not forget what side Reith was on in the General Strike.