UK fulfilling fruits of 1980s deregulation not 1970s “paranoia”

In his article in yesterday's Daily Mail, Francis Wheen claims that our society is the fulfillment of 1970s paranoia. He also has a book out, called "Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia." But Wheen does our age a disservice in turning his theory of the 1970s into a theory of now.

In his article in yesterday’s Daily Mail, Francis Wheen claims that our society is the fulfillment of 1970s paranoia. He also has a book out, called “Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia.”

Wheen’s first premise is that “the defining characteristics of the Seventies were economic disaster, terrorist threats, corruption in high places, prophecies of ecological doom and fear of the surveillance state’s suffocating embrace. The second is that we are living in the fulfillment of that prophecy. His segue from one to the other is a comment by George Osborne in January last year after the nationalisation of Northern Rock in which the Shadow Chancellor said, “Life in Brown’s Britain is like an episode of Life On Mars” referring to the BBC TV hit drama of 2006 in which a policeman has an accident and wakes up in 1973.

Osborne’s comment is followed by further proof of his theory. It comes in the form of another BBC television programme, this year’s remake of Reggie Perrin, with Martin Clunes in the role formerly taken by Leonard Rossiter. Wheen proceeds through various instances of seventies paranoia: Watergate, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Peter Wright – the former MI5 counter-intelligence officer who believed that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent – all get a look in. It is an interesting portrait of a decade but Wheen does our age a disservice in turning his theory of the 1970s into a theory of now, feeding our residual paranoias to get his book airtime in the Daily Mail.

A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, as Paul Krugman has suggested, it would appear to be the 1980s and its great deregulation of financial markets, not the 1970s, whose seeds have come to fruition. But Wheen is right, television right now does suggest otherwise.

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3 Responses to “UK fulfilling fruits of 1980s deregulation not 1970s “paranoia””

  1. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: UK fulfilling fruits of 1980s deregulation not 1970s “paranoia”, writes Tom Tabori: http://bit.ly/1tDN41

  2. matthew bond

    Excellent point. Also important to note that after a decade of Labour government we were so able to cope with global crisis and, in fact, organise an international, coordinated response. Compare that to the 1970s when we had to go to the IMF. On a tangent why are so many of these decadent Marxist-ish types giving Labour such a hard time.

  3. Roger McCarthy

    Haven’t yet read Wheen’s book and as he is a freelance journalist I don’t blame him too much for taking the Mail’s money if its offered -but I don’t think its fair to describe him as a ‘decadent Marxist-ish’type.

    His biography of Marx is actually an excellent if deliberately popular and lightweight introduction to Marxism which I regularly recommend to others.

    Certainly Wheen is very much part of the Cohen-Bright-Lloyd-Hitchens-Berman-Geras-Walzer tendency on issues like Kosovo, Iraq and Israel (which is not to say that all or even most of these people supported the invasion/liberation of Iraq or the bombing of Belgrade or Gaza) but although these stands may not have made them very popular with the rest of the Left it doesn’t preclude ny of them maintaining fully Marxist views on the labour theory of value or dialectical materialism.

    And ‘decadent’ – I am not even sure what would count as decadent behaviour in this age – and on the one occasion I met Francis he didn’t strike me as being any more debauched than any other middle class journalist I’ve ever encountered.

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