New right think tanks and English local government : old anxieties and new hegemonies
Within a Gramscian analysis, concepts of hegemony, passive revolution and organic intellectuals are employed to investigate and theorise the New Right think tanks' critique of English local government. Unlike other accounts, it is argued that the New Right think tanks successfully modernised traditional Conservative party concerns that elected local government was susceptible to demands for social welfare and of bureaucrats and politicians self-seeking efforts. The Gramscian analysis further suggests that in a highly centralised state elected local government was never only concerned with locality but was often embroiled in the statecraft strategy if the dominant bloc. Previously when the dominant hegemony had been endangered, elected local government has been usefully deployed to resolve social tensions. This strategy however, has been problematic and has been destructive of the relative independence of elected local government. More generally, elected local government's decisive role in civil society means that it too has become a site where counter hegemonic projects have clustered. During the 1980s, such tensions become critical. The organic intellectuals associated with Thatcherism, the New Right think tanks, acted as a clarion for demands to end elected local government's role in providing social welfare that effectively questioned its existence. Elswhere in a parallel development increased regulation of elected local government by the centre restricted the activities of local authorities, a strategy that also adversly affected those who supported the dominant bloc's hegemony.