Presentation on theme: "CRISIS TIME: PERCEPTIONS OF TIME AND CONJUNCTION IN POST- WAR BRITISH GOVERNANCE Glen OHara, Oxford Brookes University."— Presentation transcript:
CRISIS TIME: PERCEPTIONS OF TIME AND CONJUNCTION IN POST- WAR BRITISH GOVERNANCE Glen OHara, Oxford Brookes University
Time and relativity Time is not a linear quantity Time is not a yardstick against which other elements can be measured Time is malleable; and it moves itself, depending on ones standpoint and ones own movement
Chaotic time... Foucauldian concept of time is one of a heterodox heterotopia – a chaotic set of conjunctures These do not lead anywhere – inevitably or otherwise Instead, they are a series of collages, paradoxes and/ or impressions
The timeframes of modernity Particularly acute in the post- war era when there was supposed to be one linear timeline This was a path – perhaps the path – to economic modernity At a time when scientistic rationality was at its height as a way of theorising, and judging, governance Critical here was the use of macroeconomic statistics to measure progress against time
Time (I): Indefinite time... Pay policies might involve social partners being able over [the] course of time... [to] come more to recognise and abide by national interest (Harold Macmillans Modernisation of Britain memorandum to Cabinet, 1962) A time that was suited to a policy making community that wasnt sure how to proceed A time that was suited to exhortation – to the vague sense that the time is now for less than clearly specified action to raise productivity
Time (II) Planning time... From c.1962 to c.1967 there was a more specified sense of end points To plan the target as well as planning the path This was supposed to effect a change in attitude, and in knowledge, as well as a change in actual objectives and the means (e.g. Investment, clearer objectives) to get there
Planning time runs into complexity... Measures to stimulate investment demands take effect over a longer time-scale than measures to stimulate consumer demand. The effect of any set of reflationary measures would... be uncertain; the Government cannot control the behaviour of the economy as closely as could be wished... and it may be difficult to steer a middle course being doing too little to have any significant effect and doing so much that the rise in demand is a good deal faster than intended. TNA CAB 134/3137, Official Group on planning for reflation report, 21 October 1966.
Time (III): Crisis time Succession of apparent sterling crises mean that decisions have to be made in the very short term Officials are driven to plan in the FU committee for just seven to ten days notice of one of the most complex sets of negotiations of all (with huge consequences) – sterling devaluation Eventually issues in the collapse of currency stability when the US closes the gold window
Crisis time and multiple timescales What we are facing is not one economic problem but a number, and in certain respects... they are separate problems differentiated by separate time scales. Moreover decisions and policies which may be highly relevant, even decisive, in relation to one particular problem, might be counter-productive in relation to problems with a different time scale... for example, there are certain measures, particularly on the capital account, or on imports, which might operate effectively on the late 1965 or 1966 balance of payments out-turn. But these by their nature might look panicky and thus might have an immediate effect on confidence, particularly if regarded as a step towards, or the last desperate throw before, a more shattering decision. TNA CAB 130/237, Wilson memorandum to MISC 69, 6 July 1965.
Crisis time and the compression of judgement Can waste vast amount of time on speeches... The on consulting Departments and people within own Ministry, clearing the whole time and constant retyping... this is quite apart from all the committees. Officials attend so many meetings with other officials at top and medium level that most of time taken up. Very little time to think. Brittan diary, 24 November 1964: R. Middleton (ed.), Inside the Department of Economic Affairs: Samuel Brittan, The Diary of an Irregular (Oxford, 2012), 60.
The shrinking time horizon The Heath Governments Stage I and Stage II pay negotiations in 1972 look ahead only one year – not the three to five or 1962 or 1964-65 By this stage inflation and the collapse of the fixed exchange rate system, and the problems of EEC entry, have overtaken the concept of the long term – much against the will of European level planners (e.g. Stuart Holland) Governance in the 1970s comes to feel more day-to- day, and hand-to-mouth
Conclusions Time is discursively and ideologically created – witness the very different uses of that concept of Ricardo (on the gradualism of labours build-up in value) and in Keynes (on the rapidity of currency circulation) Time requires to be historical disassembled – its experienced differently, at different times, for different reasons Post-war British governance is a good prosaic case study of these processes: the way in which events, dear boy affected the way time was seen This shows just how malleable it can be, given that there wasnt a vast ideological revolution in these years equivalent to e.g. 1917-19 in the USSR
Conclusions A sense of eschatological time now gained a hold Apocalyptic warnings about the end of British democracy or the collapse of the British state were common Milton Friedman measured the chances of democracy surviving as no better than 50/50 Use of apocalyptic crisis- ridden language was partly connected to the concept of a decisive choice – the critical time