British Steel was privatised in 1988 by the Conservative government of Thatcher. It merged with the Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group on 6 October 1999. Corus itself was taken over in March 2007 by the Indian steel operator Tata Steel. In a series of brilliant portraits James Meek shows how Britain’s common wealth became private, & the impact it has had on us all. In a series of panoramic accounts, Meek explores the human stories behind the incremental privatization of the nation over the last three decades. As our national assets are being sold, the new buyers reap the rewards, & the ordinary consumer is left to pay the ever-rising bill.

LRB journalist James Meek looks at what the great experiment in privatisation has meant for the industries it covered. The … More

1996 & the End of History examines the year as it panned out in the UK not just in politics but in music, light entertainment & sport. It was the zenith of a decade which will go down as remarkably untroubled by modern standards; following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, prior to 9/11, in which political conditions of peace & apparent economic prosperity created an overall mood of frivolity, postmodern anti-seriousness & a desire to get back to sunnier times..

..before the grim onset of the strife-ridden 70s and 80s. 1996 could be seen in the UK as a subconscious … More

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by the Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. Klein argues that neoliberal free market policies (as advocated by the economist Milton Friedman) have risen to prominence in some developed countries because of a deliberate strategy of “shock therapy”. This centers on the exploitation of national crises to push through controversial policies while citizens are too emotionally & physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance.

Exposing these global profiteers, Naomi Klein discovered information and connections that shocked even her about how comprehensively the shock doctors’ … More

At the onset of the Great Recession, as house prices sank and joblessness soared, many commentators concluded that the economic convictions behind the disaster would now be consigned to history. And yet, in the harsh light of a new day, we’ve awoken to a second nightmare more ghastly than the first: a political class still blaming government intervention, a global drive for austerity, stagflation, and an international sovereign debt crisis..

Philip Mirowski finds an apt comparison to this situation in classic studies of cognitive dissonance. He concludes that neoliberal thought … More

Much has been written about Britain’s trailblazing post-1970s privatization program, but the biggest privatization of them all has until now escaped scrutiny: the privatization of land. Since Margaret Thatcher took power in 1979, and hidden from the public eye, about 10 per cent of the entire British land mass, including some of its most valuable real estate, has passed from public to private hands. Forest land, defence land, health service land and above all else local authority land for farming and school sports, for recreation and housing has been sold off en masse.

Why? How? And with what social, economic and political consequences? The New Enclosure provides the first ever study of this … More