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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


5.2 ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, Industrial relations


Selective industrial policy in the United Kingdom is conventionally believed to have vanished prior to the global financial crisis. This article, in contrast, argues that industrial policy remained an intrinsic, if seldom acknowledged, element of neoliberal statecraft. The basis of this is a subterfuge, conceptualised here as a ‘dual industrial policy’, which we explore via an empirical focus on the Thatcher governments. Throughout this time, actions explicitly endorsed by governments as industrial policy generally corresponded with neoliberalism’s hostility to intervention. These conveniently distracted attention from a second set of policies which, although never codified by government as industrial policy, were intended to affect the allocation of resources between economic activity. Analysis of official government publications and expenditure reveals that industrial policy expenditure under Thatcher was far higher than customarily reported. The United Kingdom’s approach has important implications for debates about neoliberal resilience, especially neoliberalism’s capacity to conscript apparently contradictory ideas.