How did Britain come to this? The accidental logics of Britain's neoliberal settlement

Hosted by LSE Press and School of Public Policy

In-person and online public event (Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House)


Professor Gwyn Bevan

Professor Gwyn Bevan

Dr Abby Innes

Dr Abby Innes


Ros Taylor

Ros Taylor



Professor Patrick Dunleavy

Professor Patrick Dunleavy

The post-war political settlement established by Clement Attlee’s government developed systems to tackle what William Beveridge identified as five giant evils of Britain in 1942: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Idleness, and Squalor. By 1979, these systems were failing. In the UK, from 1979, successive governments led by Margaret Thatcher aimed to tackle those failures in a neoliberal settlement based on rolling back the state and empowering markets. This strategy was based on two fundamental neoliberal ideas. First, the social responsibility of private enterprises is to maximise profits within rules of the game. Second, effective systems of governance can harness the attractions of market forces for services that violate the requirements for markets to be effective.

In How Did Britain Come to This? Gwyn Bevan argues that the interaction of these two ideas created an accidental logic in which financialised enterprises have exploited rules of the game to maximise profits. And successive governments have failed to develop effective systems of contracting and regulation for privatised utilities; outsourcing; and markets for housing, education and health care. 

Meet our speaker and chair

Gwyn Bevan is Emeritus Professor of Policy Analysis in, and former Head of, the Department of Management, LSE. He is also an affiliate professor in at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa and an adviser to the Inspectorate of police and fire services in England and Wales. He has served on advisory committees to governments in England on allocating resources for health care and public health, the reform of publicly-financed legal services, and funding research into overseas aid.

Abby Innes (@innes_abby) is Associate Professor of Political Economy in the European Institute at the LSE. She has published widely on issues of party-state development and state capture in central Europe, and, more recently, on the political economy of the neoliberal state in the UK in her new book Late Soviet Britain: Why Materialist Utopias Fail.

Ros Taylor (@rosamundmtaylor) is a presenter and contributing editor at Podmasters, and a former editor at LSE. Her book The Future of Trust will be published by Melville House in 2023.

Patrick Dunleavy (@PJDunleavy) is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at LSE. He was Professor in the Department of Government at LSE from 1989-2020. He is now Emeritus Professor, and Editor-in-Chief for LSE Press since autumn 2020. Patrick is a (founding) fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is author of the LSE Press book The UK's Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit.

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This event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2023, taking place from 21 October to 17 November with events across the UK.

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