What can an institution do? Towards Public-Common partnerships and a new common-sense

Winter 2018

On 3 May 1981, the Sunday Times published an interview with Margaret Thatcher reflecting on the first two years of her Conservative government. Although the most aggressive elements of the privatisation programme occurred later in her premiership, these first years had already seen the Conservatives sell both British Aerospace and Cable & Wireless, and reducing the government’s shareholding in British Petroleum.1 As Guinan and O’Neill noted in their summer editorial for Renewal, this was a sign of things to come: between 1980 and 1996 Britain accounted for ‘forty per cent of the total value of all assets privatised across the OECD’.2 Given the speed and scale of the British experience of privatisation, it is understandable that it has come to be a central aspect of popular characterisations of neoliberalism: an ideological commitment to rolling back public ownership, the emergence and increasing primacy of the financial markets and mass deregulation.

Neoliberals wanted to transform the institutions of economic and social life so that they demand individuals behave as individualistic self-maximisers. The left now needs to commit to the commoning of our institutions so that they engender collective and solidaristic behaviour.

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