The Right and the Recession considers the ways in which conservative activists, groupings, parties and interests in the US and Britain responded to the financial crisis and the “Great Recession” that followed in its wake. The book looks at the tensions and stresses between different ideas, interests and institutions and the ways in which they shaped the character of political outcomes. In Britain, these processes opened the way for leading Conservatives to redefine their commitment to fiscal retrenchment and austerity. Whereas public expenditure reductions had been portrayed as a necessary response to earlier “overspending” they were increasingly represented as a way of securing a permanently “leaner” state. The book assesses the character of this shift in thinking as well as the viability of these efforts to shrink the state and the parallel attempts in the US to cut federal government spending through mechanisms such as the budget sequester.
The Introduction outlines the five principal literatures that have considered the right in the UK and the US. It suggests that each of these literatures looks at the activity of the right at a particular level or tier. On the basis of this, the Introduction provides a guide to the chapters that follow.
This chapter sets the scene for later chapters by considering the relationship between the levels or tiers established in the Introduction. As was noted, each of these tiers is described in one of the different literatures that survey the contemporary right. The chapter introduces the concept of intercurrence within this context.
This chapter considers the impact of “Thatcherism” and “Reaganomics” and the extent to which the British and American states were restructured during the 1980s. It argues that despite the neoliberal project the state proved largely resistant to long-run shrinkage. It suggests, furthermore, that some of the gradual change mechanisms that were employed by policymakers in this period did not always create lasting or sustained institutional shifts.
This chapter considers the character of the right in both the US and the UK and, in particular, its approaches and attitudes towards the contemporary state and the ways in which it responded to the resilience of “big government”. It argues that these included civic conservatism and efforts to ensure the accountability of those elected to public office.
This Chapter looks at the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath on the right. It charts the period of initial uncertainty as the crisis first broke and the construction of a narrative around “big government” at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. It considers, in particular, at the ways in which representations of the New Deal and the 1930s were used to change the terms of debate.
This Chapter considers events and developments from 2009 onwards. It looks at the emergence and growth of the Tea Party movement, the ideas and constituencies upon which it drew, the impact of the 2010 mid-term elections, the tensions between the movement and Republican Party elites, and the character of the relationship between the right and the institutional landscape. Following the approach adopted in other chapters, it argues that policies and policy outcomes were largely shaped by processes of interaction between these different elements.
The chapter considers events and processes in Britain during the recession years. It looks at the Conservative Party (as well as the exigencies of coalition politics) and the fortunes of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the different core constituencies to which the right was tied, economic logics and the character of the institutional structures within which British policymaking was undertaken. In particular, the chapter surveys two ideational shifts. First, the Conservative leadership committed itself to radical and sustained fiscal retrenchment. This was however rationalized on largely pragmatic grounds. Then, second, it reframed retrenchment so that it became an explicit commitment to shrink and restructure the British state thereby reconfiguring its relationship with both the economy and civil society.
This Chapter returns to the concept of “intercurrence”. It surveys the different components of the contemporary right, the points at which they abrade, the character of the “chafing” that take place, and the political outcomes that emerge from all of this. Such outcomes may differ profoundly from the original intentions of policymakers.
The concluding chapter considers the durability of the processes of restructuring and the efforts to create a permanently, leaner state that are now taking place particularly in the UK. It argues that despite the radicalism of the changes being ushered in they are nonetheless vulnerable to later roll-back.