Analysing Social Change and Political Strategy

  • Will Leggett


So far we have seen that the Third Way is driven by sociological imperatives, as a response to a ‘changed world’, but that Third Wayers have also sought a distinctive set of values to frame their project. Given this, we need to understand the relationship between these twin tracks: what opportunities does social change present for political interventions? New Labour has been continually criticised for failing to communicate an overarching political narrative or ‘story’ to the electorate, as Thatcherism was able to. Enduring political projects, as Mrs Thatcher and her strategists knew, are able to win the ‘battle of hearts and minds’ and create a shift in the political culture. This is achieved by identifying the key elements of social change, and then allying them to a set of values in order to steer society in a definite political direction. The art of politics is this mediation between macro social changes and normative political values. Thus, the Thatcherites identified the aspiration that went along with what sociologists label increasing individualisation. They successfully linked this to a neoliberal discourse of ‘freedom’ and ‘opportunity’, which they contrasted to the stifling collectivism of the left.1


Social Change Functional Response Social Process Political Leadership Historical Match 
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  1. 1.
    Hall The Hard Road to Renewal (1988); Rustin ‘The future of post-socialism’ (1995). See also Marquand Decline of the Public (2004) for an account of the Thatcherites’ Kulturkampf.Google Scholar
  2. 20.
    Giddens, Beyond Left and Right (1994). A similar point is made by Marquand The Progressive Dilemma (1991), p. 227.Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    Hay The Political Economy of New Labour (1999), p. 37. See also Benton ‘Beyond left and right?’ (1997).Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    Hay The Political Economy of New Labour (1999), p. 168.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Will Leggett 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Will Leggett
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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