HomeSociety, culture, community in the United Kingdom (1970-79)

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Published on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 by Céline Guilleux


This two-day conference focusing on British society of the 1970s seeks to enlarge and to alter perspectives on the period. The intention is to examine the dynamic of contradiction, inventiveness and tensions that is at work. The intention of the conference-organizers is to circumvent and thus question any “teleological” or linear reading of the period in terms of the necessary “coming of Thatcherism” in the United Kingdom, where the politics and culture of the period are read as so many symptoms or omens of the 1979 election result. The aim is to focus on the plurality of conflicting possibilities evident in the period, and therefore on the contingency of outcomes.



The conference to be organised in Nanterre university, 13-14 January 2017, will  address the tensions and the pluralist inventiveness of British society of the 1970s, a period that was certainly a rich one, the site of a variety of conflicting  tendencies. British society of the time  was becoming more open and more globalised, while demonstrating a remarkable inventivenesss in its popular culture, which was both localised and rooted and open to a variety of newer influences.

The decade of the 1970s cannot therefore be caricatured as a decade of  failure and  pervasive gloom, according to any simplistic oppositional reading of the successive decades: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. Insofar as it lends itself to discourses of political justification  in our present, the temporality of decades is to be used carefully in any exploration of contemporary Britain. (In this respect, the historiography of the 1970s in recent British academic and popular publications is a topic worth addressing).

If the parliamentary debates of the period were indeed tumultuous, this was because the society was confronted with a series of powerful factors of change, through which the United Kingdom was being reconfigured, within a larger and more fractured world.  Factors of apparent internal "break-up" can be addressed. Factors of changing international relationships, in particular with the European Economic Community, before and after effective membership on January 1 1973, can also be addressed.

Symptomatic of this process of fracturing and reconfiguration is the weaking of the post-war two-party "consensus" stabilisation of political affiliations. The decline in the percentage of the popular vote retained by the two main "United Kingdom" parties of the right and the left, at the elections of 1970, 1974 (February and October), and 1979 is clear evidence of this, to be examined as such in relation to its causal factors and its consequences.

Faced with a series of factors of change and reconfiguraiton, British society was indeed "under stress", a place in crisis, in the sense that Antonio Gramsci (much read in Britain during the 1970s) had, during an earlier period of crisis, understood the term. However the crisis of the 1970s cannot be reduced to its sole parliamentary and party-political expression, or to the subsequent establishment of a Thatcherite ideological hegemony in the 1980s. The intention of the organisers of the conference is therefore to question any "teleological" reading of the "coming of Thatcherism" in the UK, focusing rather on the plurality of possibilites and the contingency of outcomes evident in the politics and culture of 1970s Great Britain.

The focus will therefore be on various manifestations of cultural and political inventiveness and experimentation, "from below", "in the regions", "from the margins". The frequent invocation of the notion of "community", a "keyword" (Raymond Williams) in the  politics and culture of the period will be examined. The question of the liberal right/conservative right and the radical left questioning of the basic tenets of  Keynesian social democracy "demand management" is worth  addressing. Issues of national politics can then be reappraised, in the context of a two-day conference committed to open question devoid of any a priori metanarrative.

Submission guidelines

The conference organisers invite submission of proposals for  25 minute papers. The conference organisers will edit a book, published by Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest (Nanterre). Since publication is intended shortly after the January conference, those contributers whose paper has been accepted will be given indications to help them with the preparation of their paper for the January conference and their contribution to the book.

A 250 words presentation of a proposal is to be submitted to the organisers for a

September 20 deadline.

Selection committee

  • Bernard CROS, maître de conférences, CREA EA 370, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense,
  • Cornelius Crowley, Professeur, CREA EA 370, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
  • Thierry Labica, maître de conférences, CREA EA 370, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense


  • Bâtiment V, UFR LCE - Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, 200 avenue de la République
    Nanterre, France (92001)


  • Tuesday, September 20, 2016


  • United Kingdom, culture, community, Thatcherism


  • cornelius crowley
    courriel : cornelius [dot] crowley [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr
  • Thierry Labica
    courriel : thierry/labica [at] yahoo [dot] fr

Information source

  • cornelius crowley
    courriel : cornelius [dot] crowley [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Society, culture, community in the United Kingdom (1970-79) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, August 10, 2016,

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