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Thatcherismthe economic and social policies associated with the British prime minister (1979-90) Margaret Thatcher, which replaced an era of KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS and ‘consensualist’ politics and CORPORATISM in the UK with an emphasis on MONETARISM and market mechanisms and a more confrontational style of politics, especially in the introduction of greater controls over trade unions.
Sociologists have debated the political character and implications of Thatcherism. While Stuart HALL et al. (eds) (Policing the Crisis, 1978, and The Politics of Thatcherism, 1983) have characterized the political style of Thatcherism as involving a marriage of free-market ideology, strong state, and ‘authoritarian populism’, Jessop et al., Thatcherism, (1989) present what they regard as a ‘more rounded account of Thatcherism’, analysable in terms of the interrelated implications of its 'social base’, ‘accumulation strategy’, 'state strategy’, and ‘hegemonic project’. Thatcherism is seen as the Conservative Party's response to the continuing long-term relative decline in the British economy and in the capacity of the state to regulate economic and social relations (see also FISCAL CRISIS IN THE CAPITALIST STATE). In these circumstances, a new social base is sought in ‘popular capitalism’ (e.g. home ownership, a widening of share ownership based on PRIVATIZATION), while adopting an accumulation strategy which (in contrast with Germany or Japan) involves opening the economy to international capitalism. The main 'state strategy’ associated with these moves is the fostering of’neoliberal’ state forms, including a rolling back of corporatist arrangements. Finally, a ‘hegemonic project’, involving acceptance of a degree of division into ‘two nations’ (e.g. the rejection of a 'social contract’) and the building of a populist emphasis on law and order and raison d’état, has tended to replace the social inclusiveness associated with the ‘postwar compromise’. The question remains whether this is too negative an assessment of Thatcherism, whether Thatcherism may succeed in building a long-term basis for its own continuation, including the achievement of lasting improvements in the performance of the British economy, genuine benefits for consumers and improvements in industrial relations recognized on all sides, or whether there are weaknesses in its economic and social strategies which will provoke a reaction.