‘People want jobs, they want a life!’
Deindustrialisation and loss in East Manchester
During fieldwork in East Manchester, I spent one morning every week
with Colin, a man in his early sixties, who worked on a fruit and vegetable van. The van was set up by a local healthy-eating initiative and was
supported by public funding from the NHS and the local Council. Their
aim was to supply reasonably priced fruit and vegetables to areas of East
Manchester where there was limited access to fresh food. Since the Asda
supermarket was built in
encouraged late-capitalism to move beyond the South’s
enclaves and the special economic zones established during the 1980s as part of the
North’s deindustrialisation ( Amsden, 1990 ).
Private finance is investing in what are called infrastructural ‘mega-corridors’
( Hildyard and Sol, 2017 ). With China’s Belt
and Road Initiative just one example, this is a huge near-global expansion. Except Antarctica,
no region is excluded with continental – even transcontinental – infrastructure
plans in existence that seek to reappropriate the biosphere
The last quarter of the twentieth-century brought forth enormous change to the lives of working-class Britons. This transformation came mainly in the form of widespread industrial closure and the impoverishment associated with permanent unemployment. No British city bore closer witness to this phenomenon than Liverpool. The despair of joblessness and economic deprivation blighted Merseyside to a significantly greater extent than any other major British conurbation. Liverpool had frequently been prone to industrial unrest since 1945, but it was the dawn of Thatcher and the rise of neoliberal economics which made this city a nucleus of resistance against the encroaching tide of monetarism and sweeping de-industrialisation. This critique explores six case studies which illustrate how elements of a highly mobilized and politicized working-class fought against the rapid rise in forced redundancies and increasing industrial closures. Some of their responses included strikes, factory occupations, organising and politicizing the unemployed, effecting radical left-wing municipal politics, and sadly, even surrendering to violent civil unrest. This critique concludes that in the range, intensity and use of innovative tactics deployed during these conflicts, Liverpool stood out from every other British city. Liverpool was distinctive mainly because of its own unique history which involved a long, tortured, familiarity with poverty and mass unemployment.
Social enterprise and third sector activity have mushroomed into a prolific area of academic research and discourse over the past 20 years, with many claiming their origins rooted in Blair, New Labour and Giddens’ ‘Third Way’. But many academic contributions lack experience of policy implementation and do not access the wealth of grey, legacy and public policy literature from earlier periods which supports different interpretations. Since most make few references to developments during the 1970s and 1980s, their narrow focus on New Labour from 1997 onwards not only neglects real antecedents, but miscasts the role of social enterprise. Adopting a Critical Realist approach, the author had access to previously unused hardcopy documents from archives and collections and interviewed key players and key actors between 1998 and 2002, when major social enterprise and third sector policy changes occurred. During a key political period from 1998 to 2002, Blair’s New Labour governments forced through a major conceptual shift for social enterprise, co-operative and third sector activity. Many structures, formed as community responses to massive deindustrialisation in the 1970s and 1980s, were repositioned to bid against the private sector to obtain contracts for delivery of low-cost public services. Other UK academic contributions draw parallels with North American individual social entrepreneurs or rely excessively on interpretations from L’Emergence de l’Entreprise Sociale en Europe (EMES) Research Network, which prioritises a marketised version of “work integration social enterprises” (WISEs). So the restoration of political and economic democracy has been denied to many local communities.
pressures, influences, links and networks that shaped work, and were in turn shaped by work. As a piece of historically and sociologically aware writing about economic life it was in many ways prescient.
In this chapter I want to explore another way in which Divisions of Labour is a neglected classic, and this is in terms of its attention to the issue of deindustrialisation. Pahl was writing at a time when the label ‘deindustrialisation’ was increasingly applied to the contemporary experience of industrial change. The word crops up six times in the book’s index
The 1980s were the heyday of the Thatcher counter-revolution, with mass deindustrialisation destroying Britain's manufacturing base. It was a period of significant setbacks for left politics, most notably the crushing of the miners' strike, Tony Benn's defeat in the Labour deputy leadership contest, and the abolition of the left-controlled Greater London Council. The surcharging and disqualification of councillors who resisted central government rate-capping, Labour's loss of the 1983 and 1987 general elections and the notorious 1983 Bermondsey by-election were also a part of the events during this period. This book resists the view that Labour's political and economic thought was moribund during the 1980s. It shows that Labour embraced new views on the role of the state and state intervention in the economy. The idea of a national investment bank, continental social democracy, and the 'Brexit' referendum of 2016 are discussed. Nostalgia was built into the New Labour's psyche, making it seem adrift from a changing society. Neil Kinnock replaced Michael Foot as leader in 1983 after Labour's defeat in that year's general election, and formed a party that brought changes that coincided with those made by Mikhail Gorbachev. Two major struggles between the Militant-led, Labour-run Liverpool City Council and Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government damaged the reputation of the Labour Party, harmed its fortunes in the 1987 general election. The Race Today Collective was the most influential group of black radicals in the UK, 'the centre, in England, of black liberation'.
sequence of this rundown, commencing in 1985 and largely
concluded by 1990, is significant. ‘Deindustrialization does not just happen,’
wrote Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison in their 1982 analysis of plant
closures in the USA. In practice, they contend, it is generally the consequence of
political and business decisions, taken in the context of social relationships and
tensions.14 So it was with deindustrialisation in the Scottish coalfields, which
was the legacy of the strikers’ defeat in 1984–85, rather than the inevitable
working out of structural economic change
With the increasing digitisation of almost every facet of human endeavour, concerns persist about ‘deskilling’ and precarious employment. The publishing industry has turned its energy to online and electronic media, and jobs continue to disappear from printing, publishing and journalism. The replacement of human labour with computerised technologies is not merely a contemporary issue; it has an established history dating from the mid-twentieth century. What is often missing from this record is an understanding of how the world of work is tightly interwoven with the tangible and affective worlds of material culture and design, even in ‘clean’ computerised environments. Workplace culture is not only made up of socio-political relationships and dynamics. It is also bound up with a world of things, with and through which the social and gendered processes of workplace life are enacted and experienced. Understanding how we interact with and interpret design is crucial for appreciating the complexities of the labour experience, particularly at times of technological disruption. Hot Metal reveals integral labour-design relationships through an examination of three decades in the printing industry, between the 1960s and 1980s. This was the period when hot-metal typesetting and letterpress was in decline; the early years of the ‘digital switch’. Using oral histories from an intriguing case-study – a doggedly traditional Government Printing Office in Australia – this book provides an evocative rendering of design culture and embodied practice in a context that was, like many workplaces, not quite ‘up-to-date’ with technology. Hot Metal is also history of how digital technologies ruptured and transformed working life in manufacturing. Rather than focusing solely on ‘official’ labour, this book will introduce the reader to workers’ clandestine creative practices; the making of things ‘on the side’.
common than not. Therefore, when judging the militancy of the region’s workforce, press reports alone do not offer the full
insight necessary that such a comparative analysis requires.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that the policies of the Thatcher government and the corresponding de-industrialisation of the British economy had an enormous impact on working class communities in every
British city. This analysis would never claim otherwise. However, it will
note that Liverpool’s unique history made it particularly vulnerable to
such changes, and because of this, the
instead.2 A central argument of
this book is that a non-elite cosmopolitan disposition and the acts
and practices that flow from that should be listened to rather than
dismissed. Moreover, they present a challenge to the often taken-forgranted understanding of Brexit-era England: that the 2016 referendum
result was a revolt by people and places that were ‘left behind’ by
decades of de-industrialisation and neoliberalism. This over-simplified
explanation ignores other ways in which class inequality and racisms
contributed, for example through machinations of super