Moral policemen of the domestic economy
in Ireland during the Second World War
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The department of Supplies represented the apogee of centralised state intervention in Irish history, coming to control the production, distribution, and pricing of all commodities during this time of crisis. This is the first critical analysis of the department’s successes and failures and its impact upon ordinary people during this period. It details how a comprehensive system of rationing was implemented too late in Ireland, by which time the culture of the black market had achieved hegemony in defiance of the state’s periodic and often contradictory issuing of price control orders. It explores the ‘war’ on the black market declared by Lemass and Leydon and finds that this worthwhile assault in the name of the common good often involved dubious means. Charting the bureaucratic expansion of the state at a time of severe shortages, it concludes that ultimately, the ‘dirty war’ against ‘gombeens’, racketeers and ‘spivs’ came down harshly on small-time crooks and allowed large-scale profiteers to escape punishment. Explores the operation of moral and political economy at the time.

Ireland during the Second World War

Farewell to Plato’s Cave

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