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Gentrification and the Enterprise CultureBritain 1780-1980$
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F. M. L. Thompson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243303.001.0001

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Conclusion: The Rise and Fall of Cultural Explanations of Economic Performance

Conclusion: The Rise and Fall of Cultural Explanations of Economic Performance

Chapter:
(p.143) 7 Conclusion: The Rise and Fall of Cultural Explanations of Economic Performance
Source:
Gentrification and the Enterprise Culture
Author(s):

F. M. L. THOMPSON

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243303.003.0007

Lawrence Stone believed he had proved that no more than minimal gentrification, in the strict sense of acquisition of country houses by new men of wealth, took place between 1540 and 1880. Unfortunately this conclusion rested on an elementary error in interpretation of his statistics, which actually showed that one-third of the owners of his sample of country houses were businessmen-purchasers. Gentrification on this scale occurred during the years of commercial and industrial growth when Britain became ‘the first industrial nation’, and was regarded as evidence of entrepreneurial success, not failure. Between 1870 and 1914 the British economy was overtaken not only by the U.S.A. but also by Germany, and contemporaries seeking explanations for apparent economic decline blamed the managerial and technological conservatism of family firms, caused mainly by deficiencies in education, and never mentioning gentrification. Economic historians have established that the British economy has continued to grow, rather more strongly since 1870 than before, and that aside from the World Wars there have never been any periods of economic decline. The British economy performed better than most others in the interwar years, and in the strong economic recovery of 1945-60 criticism of performance was muted. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, the ‘British disease’ of poor performance, poor quality and outdated products, poor productivity and poor industrial relations appeared, and cultural explanations became fashionable. These included, with scant regard for consistency, ascribing responsibility to dominant ill-educated individuals, to the gentlemanly and anti-business values nurtured by public schools and universities, to the haemorrhage of talent caused by landed gentrification, to the dependency culture of the nanny state (welfare state), or to the pernicious effects of Keynesian economics. Projected in the influential writings of Martin Wiener and Corelli Barnett and translated into serious politics by Keith Joseph, such views rubbished the Victorian values of muscular Christianity and public service at precisely the same time as Margaret Thatcher embraced the Victorian values of thrift, self-help, and enterprise.

Keywords:   economic decline, gentrification, cultural explanations, British disease, Victorian values, Lawrence Stone, Martin Wiener, Corelli Barnett, Keith Joseph

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