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Title: Constructing the affluent citizen : state, space and the individual in post-War Britain, 1945-1979
Author: Kefford, Alistair
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 9174
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis is about the post-war British state’s use of space to organise society and to manage the individual in ways which have been largely ignored within post-war historiography. The thesis shows that the state’s power over the physical fabric of everyday life was deployed in a manner, and in pursuit of objectives, which demand a reassessment of the ways in which the relationship between the state and society in post-war Britain is conventionally understood. Space was used in multiple and sometimes contradictory ways, but state actors evidenced a persistent desire to restructure the physical environment in order to construct normative models of the citizen-subject, to enable new modes of wealth creation, and to disrupt and marginalise unwanted places and practices. Crucially, the thesis argues that state spatial interventions were often used to construct and privilege a model of the citizen-subject as a consuming individual. The thesis focuses on state intervention in four aspects of social experience: shopping, personal mobility, domesticity, and employment. In each case the study shows that reorganising space was viewed as a key tool of government, and was deployed in order to service and manage perceived socio-economic needs. The thesis demonstrates that spatial reordering had identifiable social consequences—spatial projects were not simply indications of the aspirations of governing elites, but reconstituted the material conditions in which a whole range of social, economic, and cultural practices took shape. The thesis argues that historians have not found adequate ways of integrating the structuring force of space into their analyses of socio-historical processes. The focus of much recent historiography on the agency and identity of the individual is in danger of overlooking the ways in social and cultural practices are constrained, shaped, and managed by external factors. This thesis particularly engages studies of post-war consumerism, where the inventive cultural practices of the individual consuming subject have been emphasised at the expense of interrogating how consuming habits were managed and organised by the state and commercial actors. A central claim of this thesis is that, through spatial reorganisation, state actors regulated mass consumerism in the interests of ensuring a continued economic base for deindustrialising cities facing an uncertain political and financial future. This thesis also makes a concerted effort to overcome disciplinary divides, and to demonstrate the value of empirical historical research in testing and revising theories developed in adjacent disciplines. Within urban geography, sociology, and contemporary urban studies, characterisations of the post-war, Fordist, Keynesian, welfare state have been used to construct an influential narrative of epochal social, political, and cultural change across the second half of the twentieth century. An inclusive, collectivist, and redistributive regime is widely understood to have been radically transformed from the late-1970s into a neoliberal, entrepreneurial, consumerist, and individualistic polity. This thesis uses empirical historical research to produce conclusions which challenge this narrative of epochal political and social change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Urban History ; Post-1945 Britain