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Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 5–29 | Cite as

From Thatcherism to Blairism

Britain’s Long March to the Market
  • Antonino Palumbo
Article

Abstract

From 1979 to 1997 the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major tried to refashion British society along the managerial lines suggested by the New Right. Since 1997, New Labour has attempted to consolidate those reforms by offering a kind of ‘compassionate Thatcherism’. The article offers an overview and a critical assessment of the social and political reforms that characterize this neo-liberal consensus. The main thesis is that at the core of those reforms there is a double policy of administrative decentralization cum political centralization the goal of which is to shift the costs of social change upon middle and lower level managers while freeing the government from accountability. Against Thatcher’s libertarian rhetoric, it is argued that this policy has augmented the role of the state in society. In opposition to Blair’s Third Way discourse, it is maintained that this policy has increased inequalities, entrenched social, economic and geographical divides and re-enforced the deep-seated tendencies of the British political system towards centralization.

Keywords

Local Government Public Sector Trade Union Industrial Relation Welfare Reform 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Zusammenfassung

Zwischen 1979 und 1997 versuchten die konservativen Regierungen von Margaret Thatcher und John Major die britische Gesellschaft nach dem betriebswirtschaftlichen Muster umzumodeln, das von der Neuen Rechten propagiert wurde. Seit 1997 bemüht sich New Labour um eine Konsolidierung dieser Reformen, indem sie eine Art „mitfühlenden Thatcherismus“ anbietet. Der Beitrag bietet einen Überblick und eine kritische Einschätzung der sozialen und politischen Reformen, die dem neoliberalen Konsens entspringen. Es wird die These vertreten, dass es sich bei diesen Reformen im Kern um eine Janus-köpfige Politik der Dezentralisierung der Verwaltung bei gleichzeitiger politischer Zentralisierung handelt, die zum Ziel hat, die Kosten des sozialen Wandels auf mittlere und untere Vorgesetzte abzuschieben und die Regierung aus der Rechenschaftspflicht zu nehmen. Entgegen der liberalen Rhetorik von Thatcher wird gezeigt, dass ihre Politik die Rolle des Staates in der Gesellschaft gestärkt hat. Und in Widerspruch zum Diskurs von Blairs Drittem Weg behauptet der Autor, dass diese Politik Ungleichheiten verschärft, soziale, wirtschaftliche und geografische Spaltungen vertieft und tief sitzende Tendenzen des britischen politischen Systems zur Zentralisierung verstärkt hat.

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Copyright information

© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften/Wiesbaden 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DPDS „G. Mosca“PalermoItaly

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