Manipulating Hegemony: State Power, Labour and the Marshall Plan in Britain

Manipulating Hegemony: State Power, Labour and the Marshall Plan in Britain

Manipulating Hegemony: State Power, Labour and the Marshall Plan in Britain

Manipulating Hegemony: State Power, Labour and the Marshall Plan in Britain


Manipulating Hegemony shows how the 1945 Labour government used the Marshall Plan to quash the power and aspirations of the labour movement. The result was a pattern of British state-labour politics that endured to the end of the 1970s.


The Attlee government occupies a special place in the historiography of Britain in the twentieth century. Elected with a large parliamentary majority at the end of the war, it was the first majority Labour government and was regarded at the time and has been so regarded since as one of the great reforming governments, whose policies established the parameters within which succeeding governments were content to work for the next three decades. The extent to which there was a true consensus has been much debated, but few are disposed to question the importance of the Attlee government both for the future course of British politics in general and for the Labour Party in particular.

Much of the writing on the Attlee government has focused on its domestic policies, and the interplay between domestic and international politics is sometimes neglected. Two key developments shaped the postwar international system and the agendas of national politics — the first was the establishment of the institutions and policies under which the devastated economies of Europe and Asia were reconstructed. The second was the failure of the initial hopes of recreating the kind of unified global economy which had existed before 1914, the division of the world between the superpowers, and the beginning of the cold war.

Britain occupied a key role in the international system after 1945. It was still the world's third largest economy in 1950 and although now dwarfed by the USSR and the US as a military power, it still possessed many of the attributes for its period of global hegemony in the nineteenth century — a major international currency, sterling, which had been the leading currency in the nineteenth century; the largest colonial empire, which although severely bruised by the Second World War was still intact; and the City of London, the most important financial and commercial centre in the world economy. Britain emerged from the war determined to rebuild its global industrial and trading network and maintain its military, diplomatic and political influence around the world.

A key issue in international politics therefore after 1945 was how the relationship between Britain and the United States, the old hegemonic power and the new, would develop in the postwar world. The military alliance in the First World War had not provided a lasting basis for . . .

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