Decentring Thatcher's 'neoliberal revolution'

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Analyses of the Thatcher revolution, when not focused almost entirely on ‘the lady’ herself, tend to limit their cast of key actors to those ministers who formed the ‘dry’ wing of the Cabinet once the party entered government (Thatcher herself, of course, but also Keith Joseph, Howe, Lawson, etc.) along with an acknowledgement that monetarist economists (such as Congdon and Minford) were influential in shaping their thinking, and an apparently obligatory nod to the influence of Enoch Powell.
In this paper, we use recently released papers to analyse an attempted ‘Thatcherite’ policy revolution via mass personal pensions. This is a policy area that epitomises what came to be called the ‘neoliberal’ revolution’, though one in which the revolutionists found themselves forced to back away from their ambition to sweep away not just the state earnings-related pension but the entire structure of employer-provided pension funds in the UK (because they were seen as reservoirs of market power antithetical to individual freedom as well as ripe for take-over by a socialist government).
Ministers are not the main focus of the analysis. Rather we focus on the Centre for Policy Studies and the No. 10 Policy Unit. In doing so, we confirm the importance of the CPS as source of ideas and reveal both the centrality of the PU as a source of motive power for the ‘neoliberal revolution’ in Britain and the relative pragmatism of ministers as they backed away from that revolution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2018
EventNorth Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Annual Meeting 2018 - Providence, RI, United States
Duration: 25 Oct 201828 Oct 2018


ConferenceNorth Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Annual Meeting 2018
Abbreviated titleNACBS2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityProvidence, RI


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