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New Left Review I/153, September-October 1985

Kevin Bonnett and Simon Bromley and Bob Jessop and Tom Ling

Thatcherism and the Politics of Hegemony: a Reply to Stuart Hall

We are glad that Stuart Hall regards our article in nlr 147 as a significant contribution to contemporary debates on Thatcherism. [*] ‘Authoritarian Populism, Two Nations, and Thatcherism’, nlr, 147, 1984. We are grateful to Grigoris Ananiadis, Blanca Muniz and Rod Rhodes for comments on an earlier draft of this reply. In that article we examined his work on authoritarian populism (hereafter ‘AP’), sketched an alternative approach to Thatcherism in terms of its two-nations effects, and outlined some guidelines for future research. Here we consider Hall’s response [1] Stuart Hall, ‘Authoritarian Populism: a Reply’, nlr 151, 1985. and try to clarify our disagreements with his approach. We feel sure that he understands the respect for his work which prompted our detailed and lengthy critique, and which now prompts us to elaborate it in these pages. Indeed, we have the highest regard for his prescient and timely analyses of current conjunctures and tendencies, as well as for his more general contributions to a critical social science. We are all the more sorry, therefore, that our motives should be portrayed as academic point-scoring and polemical contestation. For we had actually hoped to intervene in the debate over socialist strategy in the face of Thatcherism. It is a measure of our respect for Hall’s work that we discussed its implications in our article and dismissed at the outset various fundamentalist, catastrophist and economistic analyses. We agree with Hall that the Left must take the forms of hegemonic politics more seriously. But we also believe that, if hegemony is understood too narrowly or is isolated from other dimensions of economic, political and ideological relations, then the Left could adopt mistaken strategies.

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Kevin Bonnett, Simon Bromley, Bob Jessop, Tom Ling, ‘Thatcherism and the Politics of Hegemony: A Reply to Stuart Hall’, NLR I/153: £3

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