From social democracy to neoliberalism? Housing, community and the state in two English new towns, 1947-2010

Meade, Freddie (2021) From social democracy to neoliberalism? Housing, community and the state in two English new towns, 1947-2010. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis investigates the transition from social democracy to neoliberalism in the two early postwar new towns of Basildon and Harlow in Essex. It does this by examining the changing nature of housing, community and the local state in these areas through a combination of archival research and oral testimony. It builds on a growth of recent research that has renewed attention towards new towns, postwar council housing and the relationship between community and individualism in postwar Britain.

It examines the changing ways in which new town development corporations pursued ‘balance’ and how they navigated growing pressure to increase owner occupation in order to draw out tensions within the social democratic settlement and question the temporality of the shift to neoliberalism. It examines the role neighbourhood sociability and structural factors played in shaping working class community, and the way the ubiquity of publicly rented housing generated a sense of egalitarianism. It draws attention to the role sales to sitting tenants from the 1970s played in generating snobbery and intra-class distinction to explore the messy relationship between individualism and community in order to shed light on recent attempts to historicise the decade.

It draws attention to the variegated experience of new town housing by examining experimental as well as traditional suburban neighbourhoods, and investigates how privatisation, stigmatisation and residualisation shaped narratives of decline, arguing that individualised narratives of aspirational self-betterment from the late twentieth century onwards can be seen as emerging out of sense of collective loss. Through a local case study that traces dwindling public investment and demunicipalisation, it argues that the changing nature of the local state in new towns is intimately related to how local vernacular narratives have made sense of what the thesis argues is an elongated and complex shift from social democracy to neoliberalism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:43
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 11:32

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