Certain ways of doing things are but passing phases - the technology of production can indeed determine social relations. Given the centrality of this idea to Marxist thought we’d all rather expect The Guardian and the like to grasp it but it does seem to be rare that they do.
For example, in the conversation about the High Street. Quite clearly there is going to be pressure on retail space dependent upon footfall as online removes that footfall part. The latest ONS figures are that 20% of retail sales are online now. It’s not a surprise therefore that the High Street is looking a little gap toothed.
This being something that must, we are told, be fought. A struggle that must be undertaken. Whereas this is rather something that must be adapted to - that technology has changed so therefore so must the relations.
Then we get that rarity, The Guardian explaining this to us all, clearly and simply:
We must fight to save our dying high streets
Ah, no, not that bit. This:
Perhaps we should consider that the high street is a passing phase in history, a 20th-century phenomenon? The modern high street evolved in the 19th century from temporary then more permanent markets set up within a living community. The markets evolved into permanent shops and, in doing so, displaced the very lifeblood of the living community. Then we had the adverse effect of cars bringing out-of-town supermarkets and the huge additional cost of parking near the high street. Now we have the internet killing off the remaining high street shops but leaving no living kernel in their place because of housing regulations and excessive rent and parking charges from councils.
I believe the 20th-century high street may be essentially dead and what is needed is further evolution so that these empty shops are converted back to living accommodation. We may have fewer shops, but they will again be within walking distance.
Yes, quite so.
Don’t worry too much about this though. It’s not that the institution of The G has suddenly managed to get something right. This is a reader’s letter, not something from the production team - that explains why it’s right perhaps.