Thatcher Fallacy (4)


“Thatcherism gave opportunity to the few not the many”

One of New Labour’s soundbites is “Opportunity for the many not the few.” It is very clever. It implies that the previous government only provided opportunity for the few, and portrays them as stuffy elitists. This is a fallacy. In fact the Thatcher government was far more meritocratic than it is ever given credit for.

According to Karl Marx class conflict would end in the realisation of an economic utopia, or in his case Communism. He described this realisation as the dissolving of one controlling class into a free classless society. Thatcher also conceptualised a free classless society, although her’s would be achieved not by a dictatorship of the proletariat, but by the neutral, benign forces of the free market. Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ would render background unimportant and merit all-important. 



“There is no such thing as society” is often quoted. Instead Thatcher claimed there was a free market of individuals, families and perhaps communities. E. Hobsbawm, the eminent Marxist historian, interprets this how it should be. By taking on ‘society’ Margaret Thatcher was taking on the conservative establishment and the rigid class structure.

“No such thing as society” was a rallying call to the trapped and frustrated individual. Hobsbawm wrote that “The pillars of the British establishment rightly regarded Thatcherism not as a continuation of the old ways by other means, but as a striking and worrying innovation.” Thatcher herself was aware of this.

The free market meant competition, opportunity, professionalism, meritocracy and aspiration. Not the old boys network, gentlemen’s clubs, family connections and favours.

Through free market reform Thatcherism blurred class distinctions, expanded opportunity, lifted aspirations, and improved the prospects for social mobility. It provided opportunity for the many and scared the living daylights out of the few.


2 thoughts on “Thatcher Fallacy (4)

  1. I do like these series of blogposts by Mr Cowdrill. I think they’re a little like a corpse taking a constructive role in the coroner’s report, but amusing nevertheless

    I was a bit surprised to discover that when I returned to refute blog 1, there were another 6 more. I’ve therefore chosen to rebut my favourite theme of Thatcherists – that her leadership brought us more opportunity and by leaving us alone, made us more free.

    I find the political discussion which critique socialism/communism/general lefty states very interesting. Many conservative (Conservative) commentators seem dead against having their lives controlled by the will of the prols (poor majority) and think that freedom and opportunity are only achieved by the withdrawal of any communal interest from their affairs (rich minority).

    My contribution to this debate will be mostly philosophical, rather than historical. I’d dare to suggest that promoting on the base of merit is very easy to do when the people at the top decide who gets to be the middle tier. Social mobility effectivey becomes patronage. In a society which has no state mandated imperative to secure social mobility, the supposedly neutral free market is no more than the weapon of those currently in control.

    Just thought I’d start the debate there, before rocking out the statistics. Enjoy it.

  2. This is not a critique of communism as you appear to think . Marx , like Thatcher ,believed there was no such thing as society : There were competing interest groups and so society could not exist . Society could therefore only come into being “when the state had withered away” after the dictatorship of the proletariat . when the interest of the individual was the same as that of the state.
    Thatcher makes the same point as Marx. I think Marx would have agreed with her that the term “society ” and the idea of society was essentially meaningless and as society as such does not exist the concept is only used by people with an ulterior motive particularly politicians who like to claim they are acting in the name of society. In fact they are only acting for themselves.

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