The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation

The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation

The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation

The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation

Synopsis

For the first two thirds of the twentieth century, British government was among the most stable in the advanced industrial world. In the last three decades, the governing arrangements have been in turmoil and the country has been a pioneer in economic reform, and in public sector change. Inhis major new book, Michael Moran examines and explains the contrast between these two epochs. What turned Britain into a laboratory of political innovation? Britain became a formal democracy at the start of the twentieth century but the practice of government remained oligarchic. From the 1970sthis oligarchy collapsed under the pressure of economic crisis. The British regulatory state is being constructed in its place. Moran challenges the prevailing view that this new state is liberal or decentralizing. Instead he argues that it is a new, threatening kind of interventionist statewhich is colonizing, dominating, and centralizing hitherto independent domains of civil society. The book is essential reading for all those interested in British political development and in the nature and impact of regulation

Excerpt

For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, governing arrangements in Britain were among the most stable and least innovative in the advanced capitalist world. In the decades since then, her governing systems have been in turmoil and she has been a leader in institutional and policy change. Why did the transformation happen? What did it amount to? What were its consequences? This book answers these questions, and this introduction summarizes the argument developed in succeeding chapters.

Consider first the epoch of stability, especially notable in the half-century after the end of the First World War. The extensions of the franchise in 1918 finally established something close to formal democracy. Labour emerged as the Conservative's main rival, ushering in a half-century when partisan argument was organized around two class blocs. With the creation of the Irish Free State 4 years later, the single most contentious issue in British politics—the character of the United Kingdom itself—went underground for half a century. The consolidation of a unified civil service after Warren Fisher's appointment as Head of the Service in 1919 fulfilled the final conditions for the creation of a culturally homogeneous metropolitan mandarin class. The biggest domestic change over the next half-century was, simply, continuing, gradual, miserable economic decline.

This stability or stagnation—depending on taste—was remarkable when viewed comparatively. These decades saw political transformation in the world's greatest capitalist democracy: the rise of the United States of America as the hegemonic international power; the creation of an Imperial Presidency; the construction of a powerful regulatory state through the New Deal. In the other big capitalist countries, the turmoil was even greater. Japan went from militarist, imperial autocracy to industrial superpower via a catastrophic military defeat and foreign occupation. Germany, France, and Italy all went through unstable constitutional government, to dictatorships, to military defeat, emerging to build democratic institutions and revitalized capitalist economies. The most important countries of Western Europe spent the 1950s and 1960s laying the foundations for a new regional superpower—an enterprise in which Britain only sporadically and reluctantly participated, and then usually with the object of its frustration and limitation. Even the single most important domestic innovation in British politics—the creation of a Keynesian welfare state during and immediately after

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