Politics of Economic Reconstruction in London, 1981-1986

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This study examines the extent to which local state institutions can exercise political autonomy in an increasingly global capitalism. This book is critical of the argument that politics have become secondary to market forces, and instead suggests that the organization of the local state can provide important opportunities and resources for progressive social movements to define economic restructuring in more democratic ways. This argument is made through an examination of the radical local economic strategy developed by the Labour party-controlled metropolitan government of London, the Greater London Council, during the 1980s. With its emphasis on participatory planning and production for social need, the Labour GLC was an important experiment in economic democracy. In contrast to recent theories that see civil society as the major force for democratization, the case of the Labour GLC suggest that forces in civil society need the resources and coordination of state institutions if they are to construct a viable alternative to neoliberalism.


“... I found Daniel Egan’s study to be the most comprehensive and serious look at the GLC available ... Egan appreciates many of the achievements of the GLC that program administrators find disappointing because they fell short of their expansive hopes. Yet at the same time, Egan has a healthy skepticism about some of the broader claims that GLC administrators take for granted. His distance from the scene, politically and geographically, seems to allow him a clearer eye for what really happened than the few British writers who have broached the topic in any sustained way ... Egan’s book will be extremely useful to academics researching the history, politicians looking for models of how local government can pursue a transformative politics, and activists interested in what progressive political tools can still work in an era of globalization.” – David Dyssegaard Kallick

“It is a genuinely original piece of work, meticulously researched and elegantly crafted. It offers clear promise of a sociologist who can make a significant contribution to economic and urban sociology, based on a talent for hard thinking, clear writing, and an innovative approach to comparative and historical methodology ... a tour de force of detailed case analysis, based on in-depth interviews Egan carried out in London with many of the principals in the case, as well as extensive scrutiny of archival data. The result is the most comprehensive and enlightening account of the London experiment in municipal socialism that I have seen ... it will prove useful to scholars throughout the world who have interest in local government, community economic development, economic democracy, and the theory of the state apparatus.” – Charles Derber

Table of Contents

Preface by Leo Panitch
Foreword; Introduction
1. There Is an Alternative: London’s Economic Crisis and the GLC Strategy
2. Relations of Political Representation: The Labour Left and the Labour Party
3. Central-Local State Relations: The Labour Left and the Thatcher Government
4. Social Relations of State Production: The Labour Left and the GLC Bureaucracy
5. The GLC, Capital, and the Limits of Local Autonomy

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