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British Manual Workers: From Producers to Consumers, c. 1950–2000

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Author Info

  • Avner Offer

    (All Souls College, Oxford)

Abstract

A large majority of the labour force were manual workers in 1960. As voters, they had electoral power to pursue collective goods. As producers they were able to disrupt production. The majority left school with no qualifications. Their human capital consisted of skills specific to particular production processes. These became obsolete with de-industrialization, and with the large rise in secondary and higher education. Educated workers relied more on individual bargaining power, and less on collective goods. Casting workers as consumers rather than citizens or producers punished those with low purchasing power, it de-legitimized producer collective action and justified low wages. Poverty increased and relative wages fell. Rising productivity was partly offset by rising house prices and longer household working hours. Council-house sales enfranchised a minority and penalized the rest. The majority continued to identify as working class, but their culture was discredited by market liberalism and consumerism.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Oxford University Economic and Social History Series with number _074.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 02 Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_074

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Web page: http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/economics/

Related research

Keywords: manual labour; human capital; skills; consumerism; housing; market liberalism;

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References

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  1. Avner Offer, 1997. "Between the gift and the market: the economy of regard," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(3), pages 450-476, 08.
  2. Emilio Fernandez-Corugedo & John Muellbauer, 2006. "Consumer credit conditions in the United Kingdom," Bank of England working papers 314, Bank of England.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did The West Extend The Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, And Growth In Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199, November.
  4. Massimo Florio, 2006. "The Great Divestiture: Evaluating the Welfare Impact of the British Privatizations, 1979-1997," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262562227, December.
  5. Wilkinson, Richard G & Pickett, Kate E., 2006. "Income inequality and population health: A review and explanation of the evidence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(7), pages 1768-1784, April.
  6. Cragg, Michael I. & Dyck, I. J., 2000. "Executive Pay and UK Privatization: The Demise of 'One Country, Two Systems'," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 3-18, January.
  7. Michael Anyadike-Danes & Duncan McVicar, 2008. "Has the Boom in Incapacity Benefit Claimant Numbers Passed Its Peak?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 29(4), pages 415-434, December.
  8. Baumol, William J, 1982. "Contestable Markets: An Uprising in the Theory of Industry Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 1-15, March.
  9. David M. Newbery, 2002. "Privatization, Restructuring, and Regulation of Network Utilities," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262640481, December.
  10. Sue Bowden & Avner Offer, 1994. "Household appliances and the use of time: the United States and Britain since the 1920s," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(4), pages 725-748, November.
  11. Beck, Morris, 1985. "Public Expenditure, Relative Prices, and Resource Allocation," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 40(1), pages 17-34.
  12. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "A Psychological Perspective on Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 162-168, May.
  13. Alan T. Peacock & Jack Wiseman, 1961. "The Growth of Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number peac61-1, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Avner Offer & Rachel Pechey & Stanley Ulijaszek, 2010. "Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: the effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _082, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  2. Paul A. David & S. Ryan Johansson & Andrea Pozzi, 2010. "The Demography of an Early Mortality Transition: Life Expectancy, Survival and Mortality Rates for Britain's Royals, 1500-1799," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _083, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

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