Professor Devenney of Brighton University has rightly warned us about the connection between property ownership, social status, and propriety. However, he has concentrated on history in linking that to colonial practice and law, rather than treating the new forms of propriety. Even if Ed West of UnHerd gives insufficient attention to the presence of democracy when proclaiming the return of taboo and etiquette (in politically correct form), the new versions are capable of becoming dangerous.

Devenney's arguments also show why propriety, including in the form of adherence to correct language, can be dangerous in excess through his idea of 'improper politics'. Devenney links improper politics (an impropriety, of course) to democracy, and that connection remains even as it mutates in response to a new social environment. The most prominent improper politics of the present comes from nationalist populism which appeals to the less educated (it again has a class identity) and older, whether in Orban's 'illiberal democracy' in Hungary or elsewhere. It is easy to forget that while improper politics in any of its forms; be it religious, Left, or Right, claims to stand for the underdog and the 'people', it can readily turn authoritarian and warlike.

Nowadays, around the world populisms draw support from those who see themselves at the bottom end of the new society, not least as compared with the (conventionally) educated. It may not be an immediate problem for democracy, or the world's future, that they have scant respect for the proprieties of 'woke' campaigners. But if they then turn to a politics which treats democracy, as well as propriety, carelessly then the picture darkens. For that very reason propriety, which retains a provocative connection with social status and property (ownership), needs to be handled with a care that campaigners about language and identities often fail to show.

For improper politics and propriety are of a piece in being like anti-coagulent medication. They are essential in precisely measured doses; in excess they are lethal.

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