No Such Thing as Society
The 1980s was the revolutionary decade of the twentieth century. To look back in 1990 at the Britain of ten years earlier was to look into another country. The changes were not superficial, like the revolution in fashion and music that enlivened the 1960s; nor were they quite as unsettling and joyless as the troubles of the 1970s. And yet they were irreversible. By the end of the decade, society as a whole was wealthier, money was easier to borrow, there was less social upheaval, less uncertainty about the future.
Perhaps the greatest transformation of the decade was that by 1990, the British lived in a new ideological universe where the defining conflict of the twentieth century, between capitalism and socialism, was over. Thatcherism took the politics out of politics and created vast differences between rich and poor, but no expectation that the existence of such gross inequalities was a problem that society or government could solve – because as Mrs Thatcher said, ‘There is no such thing as society … people must look to themselves first.’
From the Falklands war and the miners’ strike to Bobby Sands and the Guildford Four, from Diana and the New Romantics to Live Aid and the ‘big bang’, from the Rubik’s cube to the ZX Spectrum, McSmith’s brilliant narrative account uncovers the truth behind the decade that changed Britain forever.
(McSmith) presents his views and his recollections clearly, accurately and accessibly in a very readable, social document. * The Scotsman * A rollicking read. * Metro * ....an enjoyable romp through the decade. * The Spectator * A fine account of the decade. * Independent on Sunday * McSmith has a sharp eye for a revealing story. * The Sunday Times * It was a wild, wild decade: strong politics, riots, revival, bad hair, great comedy, some dreadful music, lurid newspapers and a war or two. The Margaret Thatcher rollercoaster carried so many of us into today's Britain, with so many bumps and shrieks, that it needs a writer of cool judgement and a reporter who misses nothing to tell its story. Andy McSmith has managed it, ranging from barcodes to TVam, feminism to Torvill and Dean, and Sloane Rangers to flying pickets. It's hard to see how this account could be bettered. * Andrew Marr *
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