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A farewell to alms: Thatcherism's legacy of inequality

Dorey, Peter 2015. A farewell to alms: Thatcherism's legacy of inequality. British Politics 10 (1) , pp. 79-98. 10.1057/bp.2014.24

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Intrinsic to Conservatism is the premise that inequality is both inherent in all free societies, because of innate differences in human nature, and necessary to provide a system of incentives and rewards for the most successful individuals in society, who in turn create the wealth and prosperity on which the rest of society is heavily reliant. Nonetheless, many senior Conservatives, particularly from 1945, had tacitly accepted that there were extremes of inequality which a civilised society should not tolerate. Although these limits were not specified, there was a recognition that ‘too much’ inequality might endanger social stability and even weaken the legitimacy of Capitalism and liberal democracy. However, from the mid-1970s onwards, there has been an ideological shift in the Conservative Party, linked in large part to a socio-demographic and generational transition, which witnessed a decline of such patrician paternalism. Instead, a burgeoning New Right, symbolised by a newer, often younger and lower-middle class or meritocratic generation of Conservatives, in tandem with sundry think tanks, journalists and intellectuals, enthusiastically promoted a purer form of Capitalism. One of the problems that the New Right and its British variant Thatcherism attributed to post-1945 economic and social policies in Britain was egalitarianism and the pursuit of (greater) equality. Thatcherism’s legacy of increasing inequality remains a notable economic and social feature of Britain today.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Uncontrolled Keywords: quality/inequality; neo-liberalism; the poor; poverty; the rich; wealth; welfare state
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISSN: 1746-918X
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2019 15:07

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