Stuart Hall was one of the most insightful and incisive critics of the Thatcher era. In this essential selection of his essays during the period, he elaborates both how Thatcher’s rise to power exploited weakness in the left, but also how the left itself can refresh itself in the shadow of defeat. This collection is as vital today as it was in 1988.
Through the essays Hall shows how Thatcher has exploited discontent with Labour’s record in office and with aspects of the welfare state to devise a potent authoritarian, populist ideology. This ranges through the formation of the SDP, inner city riots, the Falklands War and the signficance of Antonio Gramsci. He suggests that Thatcherism is skillfully employing the restless and individualistic dynamic of consumer capitalism to promote a swingeing programme of ‘regressive modernization’.
In response he elaboraties a new politics for the Left as it is with the project of the Right. Hall insists that the Left can no longer trade on inherited politics and tradition. Socialists today must be as radical as modernity itself. Valuable pointers to a new politics are identified in the experience of feminism, the campaigns of the GLC and the world-wide response to Band Aid.