chapter  3
23 Pages

From state to market

Since the 1970s there has been a general shift rhetorically and in organis­ ational practice from state to market regulation of social and cultural life. This is evident not only in the rejection of command economics in the former communist states but also in the move away from demand-management economics in liberal-democratic societies where, in the middle decades of the twentieth century, governments had sought to plan production, distribution, exchange and consumption in a more or less comprehensive fashion, through either measures of public ownership and provision or extensive rules and regulations pertaining to the private sector of industry and finance. The political claim was made that by freeing market forces a more satisfactory means of general regulation which met the needs of the citizen as customer with greater effectiveness would be achieved, although normally the word ‘de-regulation’ has been used to refer to such withdrawal of direct state intervention from various parts of civil society. The acceler­ ated globalisation of an already highly internationalised economy seemed, in addition, to substantiate the view that the role of the nation-state should be limited as a matter of elementary realism. These familiar trends tell us little enough in themselves without some comprehension of why they have come about. Undoubtedly, the crisis of the world economy in the 1970s and what became known as ‘the fiscal crisis of the state’ created favourable conditions for a switch to the market-oriented politics of the New Right, offering old-new solutions to a number of chronic problems. The precipitate decline of a still historically quite novel Fordist system of mass production and consumption in the advanced industrial nation-states and response strategies for accomplishing a much more flexible ‘post-Fordist’ regime of accumulation, particularly with the aid of micro-electronic and computing technologies, further accentuated the dramatic changes of recent decades.