The social and economic changes since the early 1970s revealed a polity which had been atrophying over time, increasingly cut off from the well-springs of its authority — the consent of the public. If the postwar period began with a ‘settlement’ between the estates of the realm (the state, capital and labour) to create a fairer and prosperous modern society for all its citizens, then thirty years later, although much had been achieved, society was becoming increasingly fragmented. Accelerating long-term unemployment brought into question the status of many citizens as full members of the community participating in the development of their community. The public life of the community has been eroding over time to the point where it is uncertain whether our society has the social resources to resolve those problems — for example, environmental pollution — which can only be resolved through collective action, informed by an understanding of the public good that is widely shared throughout the community.
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