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Paradoxes of "progressive" goverment: Urban policy under new labour and the decline of grassroots activism in England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacqueline Haq


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In 1997, when Tony Blair's New Labour party swept into power in Great Britain, many expected that this political shift would herald the dismantling of the radical neoliberalism that had characterized previous Conservative periods. Yet, the Thatcher-Major eras (1979-1997) had also been characterized by a fluorescence of grassroots activism, a phenomenon that has been in decline since Blair's election. In this article, we attempt to answer the following questions: How did the first 10 years of New Labour rule, with its professed aspirations for "progress and justice," end up presiding over one of the most quiescent periods in contemporary British history with respect to community-based grassroots activism and local-level movements for social change? How have transformations in the nature of the British state since 1979 served largely to disable community-based grassroots activism? Using ethnographic evidence, we suggest that this quiescence has been the consequence of three different policy streams: central government policies on community regeneration that bypass the role of local authorities in carrying out these programs; consumerism as a strategy for governance; and regimes of policing and surveillance, which have resulted in a phenomenon we call "grassroots authoritarianism." We suggest that community quiescence in the face of drastic local changes is a direct product of particular forms of state interventions, rather than a reflection of citizen apathy. © 2008 The Institute, Inc.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Haq J, Hyatt SB

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Urban Anthropology

Year: 2008

Volume: 37

Issue: 2

Pages: 211-249

Print publication date: 01/06/2008

ISSN (print): 0894-6019

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Institute for the Study of Man


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