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New Left Review 5, September-October 2000

How far can the path from Thatcher to Blair be written as a dynamic of Ukanian constitutional involution, or devolution? Francis Mulhern questions whether classes can be so quickly bundled off-stage. Is it possible to speak of nations—English, Scottish, Irish or any other—as political communities, without social or ideological dispositions?



Twenty-five years ago, Tom Nairn published The Break-up of Britain. There would be no need for the question-mark that some thought only prudent, he felt sure: that historical future was already upon us. Today, in a successor volume whose title likewise steals a march on the calendar, he does not even pause to say ‘I told you so’. The process of disintegration ‘is indeed under way, and there is now almost no one who believes otherwise’. After Britain, the first of a planned two-book set on the politics of the North Atlantic ‘archipelago’, aims to show that New Labour has unwittingly pitched the old state into terminal crisis, to specify what must now be done in Scotland, and to make a first estimate of the challenge now facing the most enigmatic of Westminster’s nationalities, the English.

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Francis Mulhern, ‘Britain After Nairn’, NLR 5: £3

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