Introduction

  • David Coates
Chapter

Abstract

The existence of this text, in the form in which it is presented here, is itself evidence of how the political agenda in contemporary Britain has begun to shift. The very term ‘industrial policy’ spent the 1980s out of fashion. It was not something that was widely referred to, except by those pursuing the sources of Britain’s economic weakness. Commentators sympathetic to the philosophy and practice of Conservative governments after 1979 would look back to the twenty years before, see Conservative and Labour governments heavily and increasingly involved in the shaping of industrial activity, and use that involvement as a key to post-war economic under-performance. The ruling fiction of the 1980s was that the UK stopped having industrial policy, and had industrial recovery instead. The reality, of course, was simply that one kind of industrial policy was replaced by another, and that the new industrial policy could no more seal Britain from recession and de-industrialisation than had the one before. While the fiction held, the debate on industrial policy stalled; but at the end of the 1980s, as industrial output fell and unemployment rose, the debate began again.

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Copyright information

© Centre for Industrial Policy and Performance, University of Leeds 1996

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  • David Coates

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