The Economic History Review

Managing the economy, managing the people: Britain c.1931–701

Volume 58 Issue 3
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Pages: 555-585Authors: JIM TOMLINSON
Published online: July 7, 2005DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2005.00313.x

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The rise and consolidation of national economic management is one of the key themes of British economic and political history in the middle decades of the twentieth century. This article seeks to complement the existing substantial literature focused upon elite economic policy-making processes with an analysis of how that economic management has been accompanied by persistent government attempts to develop and popularize new understandings of ‘the economy’. In this way, governments were involved in a profound shift in their relationship with the wider society, as they sought to shape the beliefs and behaviour of producers, consumers, and the public in general. The article attempts to link the elite discourse of national economic management to the attempts to shape popular understandings about the economy, and the (problematic) impact of these understandings on behaviour. The particular focus is on the 1960s, when these attempts reached some kind of culmination.