UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Winning consent: the protracted campaign for an anti-corporatist "common sense" Fuller, S.


The metaphor used to read the world significantly influences how it is interpreted. Similarly, the assumptions which underpin a study influence the form the arguments take. This thesis embodies the assumption that in complex systems such as that of contemporary society, which do not merely reproduce themselves but entail continual change, this change is best understood in terms of how it has been actively contested. The metaphor is struggle. The project has social movements theory as its theoretical interest, in particular themes derived from the thought of Antonio Gramsci and Main Touraine. Specifically, the study pursues its understanding of social transformation using a framework formulated by social movements theorists Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison to search out and identify longer-term processes related to the subjectivities of intellectual and social action as the key to understanding how the dominant way in which a society sees itself can change and in turn can change the society. The thesis argues for a new understanding of the dramatic changes which took place in industrialised western countries during the 1 980s associated with a decline of the corporatist perspectives of what is known as the Keynesian “consensus” and an erosion of the power of meta-narratives. Adapting to a new purpose an investigative approach in the social movements tradition, it identifies and traces a movement campaigning against large-scale state intervention and for a more market-based social order and pushes its origins back to the 1930s. It takes issue with and puts forward a reformulation of what the dominant accounts have called the “New Right,” generally seen as a response to the “crisis” of the late 1960s and 1970s and interpreted through the metaphor of base/superstructure, where historical developments are rooted in economy. Selecting the period from 1931 to 1981, this study traces the development over 50 years of a movement whose growth began with the arrival in Britain of Friedrich Hayek in 1931 and which since that time has fought a concerted international campaign for limited government and more market-based approaches, creating and developing the research and policy institute, or think-tank, as an important organisational form along the way and consistently foreshadowing political/policy change in the thrust of its movement activities. Methods associated with field work are used, such as observation of the activities and practices of the intellectuals in their various fora; focused, semi-structured interviewing, used as a method within the methodology of both survey and case study; as well as what is referred to as unobtrusive measures, such as the examination of documents and other archival material. An account of material not in the bibliography is included in a set of appendices. The originality of this thesis lies in two things: Firstly, in showing that the more robust market policies of many Western governments in the 1980s were the result not just of currents of ideas but of 50 years of struggle by a social movement with intellectuals and organisation; secondly, in using a social movements approach to study a grouping generally conflated with the Right. The study examines in detail the process in which the movement intellectuals were engaged and makes links between their protracted, organised intellectual campaign and the changes which have undermined the postwar Keynesian welfare state. Direct contact was made with the intellectuals in their organisational settings, notably the think-tank, and relevant documents stretching back close to the turn of the century were consulted. The study also identifies Hayek not only as a central figure in the revival and reformulation of classical liberalism and resolute organiser of the movement campaigning against centralised, large-scale state intervention, but also as an important player in contemporary epistemological themes. His critique of positivism in particular has been a contribution to an intellectual strand eroding the dominance of positivist notions in the post-World War II social sciences. Overall, his work has contributed to keeping the movement vital while raising his own profile in the last quarter of the 20th century in what is being called the knowledge or information society.

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