Neo-liberalisms in British politics

Byrne, Christopher (2014). Neo-liberalisms in British politics. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis reconsiders conceptualisations of neo-liberalism by challenging established economistic and ideologistic narratives of the unfolding of the neo-liberal project in Britain. Drawing on and attempting to integrate with one another Laclau and Mouffe’s post-Marxist discourse theory and Foucault’s theory of governmentality, the thesis charts the development of a neo-liberal governmental rationality in British politics from the emergence of Thatcher onto the British political scene in the late-1970s, through the New Labour project in the 1990s and 2000s, up to the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010. The second major strand of the argument presented in the thesis is that each of these decisive moments in the history of British neo-liberalism served the crucial purpose of reinvigorating the longer-term neo-liberal governmental project by providing it with a new hegemonic basis upon which to base its popular support. The thesis begins with an analysis of Thatcherism as a chaotic, fledgling form of neo-liberal governmentality underpinned by, in Hall’s (1979) memorable words, an ‘authoritarian populist’ hegemonic project. It then considers New Labour as representing a more fully-developed, ‘advanced neo-liberal’ form of government, which simultaneously restored the electoral viability of the Labour party and provided the neo-liberal governmental project with a new, ‘technocratic populist’ hegemonic basis. The final section of the thesis focuses on the politics of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. The historical significance of ‘Big Society’ is theorised as both a neo-liberal technology of government and as an ideology with the dual purpose of ‘detoxifying’ the Conservative party brand and winning popular support for the further neo-liberalisation of British society.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory


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