Full text: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft - 1996 Heft 3 (3)

Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 22. Jahrgang (1996), Heft 3 
although a small band of right-wingers and economic liberals (Friedrich 
Hayek gave them a theory-based alibi and a coherent political philoso­
phy) remairred unappeased. 
Many differences persisted between the political parties as to policy 
priorities but a basic consensus developed: "Butskellism" . (7) According 
to one analyst , this consensus was facilitated by "Labour's retreat from 
further nationalisation and state planning after the economic body 
blows it suffered in 1947 " (8). In the "historic compromise" the Conser­
vatives accepted a mixed economy (that included a strong nationalised 
sector) and the Welfare State, while Labour did not question the 
continued existence of the capitalist system. The "Golden Age" (9), "a  
capitalism without losers" (10) which ensued, and with it the broad 
political consensus, collapsed in the mid-1970s under the strains caused 
by world-wide "stagflation" , the associated intensification of the distri­
butional conflict and ideological counter-revolution of the New Right 
(which Bruno Kreisky considered to be not really all that "new"). To 
this, the practitioners of the prevalent "vulgar" version of Keynesianism 
(Joan Robinson's description) had no answer. 
It was the now-crumbling post-war consensus that Mrs. Thatcher and 
her associates vowed to destroy completely. In her eyes all post-war 
governments, whether Labour or Conservative, had been basically social 
democratic and they had done no more than "manage decline" ; though 
she was well aware of it ( 11 )  she was publicly ignoring the fact that 
Britain's relative decline had been in evidence for a century, since the ­
free market - 1880s and she would not or could not acknowledge that in 
the first three post-war decades the performance of the "over-regu­
lated" , " socialist" , British economy had been in all ways vastly superior 
to that of the inter-war period and that British society was very much 
more contented and cohesive. But for the representatives of capital the 
postwar changes had gone too far and they felt threatened. So when the 
profit squeeze came they set about in the later 1970s and the 1980s in 
Britain as all over Western Europe to protect, restore, indeed extend the 
"prerogatives of capital" (12) and in Britain they succeeded to a greater 
extent than elsewhere in Western Europe. Instead of maintaining a 
"mixed economy" , the thatcherites would sell off the state enterprises 
and "set the market free" by a thoroughgoing programme of deregula­
tion of product and labour markets; this was expected to create a 
flourishing "enterprise culture" . They strongly furthered the process of 
"globalisation" which everywhere weakened the position of labour and 
progressive movements, the perception of which "robs us of hope" and 
the political impact of which "one can can only call the pathology of 
over-diminished expectations" (13) .  At the same time, the thatcherites 
used globalisation as an alibi for their own preferred strategies . Hirst 
and Thomson see the "rhetoric" of globalisation as "based on an anti­
political liberalism" , "a godsend" for the Right in the advanced indus­
trial countries, which provides a new lease of life after the "disastrous 
failure of their monetarist and radical individualist policy experiments 
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