Again, part of the relentless hostility that is directed against the BBC comes from its origin as an institution that was meant to function in a sphere of autonomy that is outside the market. Today, the very idea of such a sphere is illegitimate.
Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else
Rightly, Meek sees the process in which public institutions were delegitimated as having begun with Thatcher — even though most of the privatisations he examines took place after she was removed from power. His account of events is not always recognisable to someone who was there at the time.
However misguided he was in other respects, Hayek understood that building a market society involved breaking with many of the traditions and practices of the past. Again, Meek's analogy between Britain's privatisations and the predatory expropriations of the former Soviet bloc may be overdrawn.
James Meek on 'Private Island'
As he says himself, the Soviet privatisations were implemented in the aftermath of economic collapse. A system in which "copies of the complete works of Soviet politicians and busts of Lenin prevailed besides shortages of goods everyone wanted" was replaced by a chaos in which "a solid rank of impoverished pensioners, some several hundred respectable old ladies, stood shoulder to shoulder in the freezing winter darkness outside Belarus station in Moscow, each holding a single sausage for sale — the free market as desperation".
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The dislocation of society, before and after privatisation, was incomparably larger in the Soviet case than in Britain. But the parallelism in thinking was real enough. Both in the UK and the former Soviet bloc, governments were captured by a sort of inverted Marxism, more crudely economistic than the original version and lacking Marx's insight into the contradictions of capitalism.
It's less clear what will happen here. Quite possibly, nothing very much. Intellectually, neoliberalism has long been thoroughly discredited.
Britain Doesn't Belong to You - VICE
Politically, it has rarely been more secure. At the end of the book, Meek looks wistfully to a revival of non-market thinking, starting in the area of social housing. An earlier version said the privatisations James Meek examines took place after Margaret Thatcher was removed from power.
The privatisation of social housing began when she was in power. Topics Politics books. Economics Books Economics Business reviews.
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