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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The State We're Still In
We never seem to learn, do we? Will Hutton wrote 'The State We're In' during the mid-1990s, and when it was published in 1995 the Labour Party were the coming men. The then-Conservative government of John Major was in trouble, hated in many places around the country, a fact that is now increasingly forgotten as populist opinion sides with one party or the other, mainly...
Published on 19 Dec 2012 by T. T. Rogers

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1.0 out of 5 stars Will not be buying it, because, having read ...
Will not be buying it, because, having read the above reviews, I am not inclined to read a series of left wing rants.
Published 21 hours ago by R. K. A. Phillips


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The State We're Still In, 19 Dec 2012
By 
T. T. Rogers - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
We never seem to learn, do we? Will Hutton wrote 'The State We're In' during the mid-1990s, and when it was published in 1995 the Labour Party were the coming men. The then-Conservative government of John Major was in trouble, hated in many places around the country, a fact that is now increasingly forgotten as populist opinion sides with one party or the other, mainly the Labour Party, so that it looks increasingly likely that Labour will come to power again in 2015. And so the story continues: history repeating itself as farce, with the spectacle descending deeper and deeper into a kind of burlesque camp.

On its own terms, and allowing for aspects that are obviously dated, this book is a useful antidote against a burgeoning pro-Tory revisionism that attempts to rehabilitate the Thatcher-Major years in the popular consciousness. It is easy to forget why the country wanted change in 1997 and to adopt the lazy position that Blair simply 'conned' or hoodwinked the country into power. It's not true. The Conservatives were decisively and ruthlessly swept from power for a generation by an angry electorate because the Conservative government was unpopular. It was unpopular because it did things that were inimical to the country's interests. There was asset-stripping and privatisation, the destruction of our manufacturing base, mass immigration, the ERM débâcle, the sleaze scandals, and much more. These things happened under the Conservatives. That similar things also happened under the subsequent Labour governments does not change or invalidate the reasons for the country's rejection of the Conservatives in 1997.

By the time this book was published, a broad popular anti-Conservative front had coalesced consisting of the Labour Party itself; the wider labour and trade union movement; left-leaning academics like Hutton; a large pro-Labour client base in the public sector; various cultural apparatchiks mainly within the BBC but also across the arts and entertainment community; senior figures within the Church; large majorities among working class people in the depleted industrial areas of Scotland, Wales and northern England; not to mention millions of ordinary people around the country who had either suffered due to Conservative policies, or who, instinctively or otherwise, just didn't like Tories (to give the Conservatives their slightly pejorative label). Most of these people were not Labour Party people, as such. Nor were they even 'pro-Labour' necessarily. Indeed, most of them did not necessarily self-identify as 'left-wing' in any sense. Nevertheless, they became Labour's confederates. It was the Labour Party, and in particular a narrow clique at its apex, that benefited most from the opposition to Toryism. This book, perhaps without the author intending to, helps to explain how and why this 'anti-Tory' populism arose.

This book is also an antidote against a different, more substantive kind of revisionism. It is now said that Labour under Blair then Brown had a lax attitude to the public finances and is responsible for the unacceptable levels of public debt that the country now (supposedly) faces. There is a kernel of truth in this and it has to be conceded by honest Labour politicians that the Party's policies in government were, in part, responsible for the fiscal and economic difficulties. They cannot just blame global financial and economic issues. However, it is also sobering to reflect that the level of public debt inherited by Labour in 1997 was actually higher than that inherited by the ConDem Coalition in 2010 - yes, higher. The approach taken by Brown and Darling to tackling the crisis of 2008-10 was sound in its essentials. That their policies contributed to the problem and partly caused it in the first place need not detract from an acknowledgement that their response was correct and competent. For its part, this book outlines the problems that the Conservatives' own economic policies caused during the 1980s and 1990s and which Labour inherited and attempted to resolve, with a degree of success.

'The State We're In' will be of practical use for students and researchers of politics and economics, in that it provides comprehensive coverage of the centre-left, neo-Keynesian arguments against New Right Conservatism, arguments which still hold true today. Will Hutton was, and remains, the type of inoffensive, centre-left intellectual of moderate social-democratic impulses that we still see on the BBC. That's the meter of this book, and Hutton's views - both then and today - reflect broadly the perspective of the metropolitan Establishment. Yet for all this, it would be wrong to pigeon-hole Hutton as a court academic or a sycophantic creature of the Establishment, nor is he a purveyor of the type of 'fuzzy middle' platitudes that became associated with British social-democrats in the 1980s and 1990s. Admittedly, there is a feel of pregnant hesitancy at times in the prose, as if Hutton is anxious not to offend and doesn't want to go too far, but there is rigour and understanding here and perhaps this explains why, for all his talents and contacts, Hutton was never at the centre of what became New Labour. His attitude to economics and his policy prescriptions were not in simpatico with either the Blairites or the Brownites, so 'The State We're In' is really more a manifesto of what Labour could have done in power had it really been Labour. Indeed, it would be interesting to ask Hutton whether he originally wrote the book in anticipation of a Blair government or in anticipation of a John Smith government, though I think the answer is obvious. That is not to deny that Blair was profoundly of the Left, but his understanding of social-ism was very different to the understanding found among the old Right of the Labour Party. With the death of John Smith and the ascendency of Blair, the prospects for a fairly moderate, conservative, provincial-minded Labour government diminished and instead we had a revolutionary Left clique in power: i.e. New Labour.

In my view, this book remains both prescient and relevant. The state we're still in is the state we were in back in 1997, only worse in some ways. Where I think Hutton goes wrong is in this view that the solution to Britain's problems is a kind of 'Co-operative Capitalism'. Co-operative Capitalism is still capitalism. Really, you can stick whatever label you want on it, the meaning is the same essentially. We can call it 'Compassionate Capitalism', or something nice and fuzzy like 'Green Capitalism', or even 'Democratic Capitalism'? How does that grab you? It's still the same thing. In my opinion, the solution for society is democracy, which is the opposite of capitalism. The real problem is our inability to understand this and learn from the experience of a failed and bankrupt social system that returns leader after leader, some better than others, but all embarked on a futile mission: to reform a system that cannot be reformed in the interests of humanity. When will we learn? Probably not in my lifetime. Of course, all that is just my opinion, my perspective. There are some still within the Labour Party, and others close to it, who retain their confidence in social-democracy (though I would call it faith rather than confidence). For those people, this book is a kind of chalice. The forgotten and necessary case for this 'decent', well-meaning kind of social-democracy can return if a brave few are willing to make it. Certainly, there has not been a more opportune time for Labour to return to those arguments and the spirit of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HE SAID IT FIRST-, 28 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
BUT DID ANYONE LISTEN ? DID ANYONE CARE I WONDER HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE READ IT ? AND TRULY UNDERSTAND ITS IMPLICATIONS !!!!!
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43 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent critique of typical New Right arguments, 13 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Although this book is slightly out of date after the abolition of hereditary peers and devolution for Scotland and Wales, it is still worth reading for it's excellent and comprehensive critique of New Right Policy. The book starts with how the Conservatives fused Neo liberal thought with popular policies, creating an electoral machine which won four general elections in a row. It talks about how the Conservatives managed to manipulate the uncodified British constitution to great effect during the 1980's and 1990's.
It simultaneously charts the crisis among the British Left, and the European Left in general, and how the New Labour experiment attempted to deal with this. The main thrust of the book is that the last twenty odd years have been an experiment in free market economics which have had serious effects on social cohesion, and given us the lowest paid workforce, yet the highest paid executives in Europe.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Prescient Piece of Work, 10 Nov 2008
By 
B. Murphy (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The State We're in: Why Britain is in Crisis and How to Overcome it (Hardcover)
Given the dramatic collapse of Britain's banking industry in Autumn 2008, I once again picked up Mr Hutton's work to re-appraise myself of its arguments and to see if its solutions really would have helped us avoid the present crisis.

I was amazed at how well Hutton's critique predicted the shambles caused by removing the regulatory breaks from the once-mighty financial sector. The book picks apart the so-called Thatcherite economic reforms laying bear the true originator of Britain's contemporary economic woes. The argument against laissez-faire capitalism is sharpened by recent events. And surely now there cannot be a voter left who still believes that Thatcher was anything but a very poor, and very damaging Prime Minister.

Hutton lays bear the yawning weaknesses in the British economy forged by both Parties when in government, but particularly by the peculiar COnservative brand post 1979.

Unlike many polemics, this work does not stop at pointing out blame. It provides detailed and workable solutions to even this credit crunch. Europe is key, as well as reclaiming the economy as a tool to benefit ordinary people, rather than allowing it to enrich the already rich and run amok as it has these last 30 years.

A book written in the nineties that is as contemporary today as it was then. A must-read for the economic and political historian.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One remarkable analysis, 3 Jan 2011
I wanted to review this book, before starting to read Hutton's most recent piece "Them and Us". I read the book back in 1996, in the times of The Trainspotting hysteria in the North of U.K., and its key insights are as informative now as they were 15 years ago. Despite lots of historical and institutional differences, I could learn a lot about the logic and contingencies of the capitalist market economy, one can now observe in other parts of Europe, including Slovakia, my home country. I only wish we also had authors like Hutton who can provide a well-structured, optimistic big picture analysis of a nation's state and prospects...
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1.0 out of 5 stars Will not be buying it, because, having read ..., 24 Dec 2014
By 
Will not be buying it, because, having read the above reviews, I am not inclined to read a series of left wing rants.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting despite being astonishingly biased, 22 Sep 2007
By 
B. Leith (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The State We're in: Why Britain is in Crisis and How to Overcome it (Hardcover)
It is clear that Hutton has a strong socialist/leftward bias and he fails to be persuasive by not sufficiently supporting his views. This does not totally discredit the book though, and taken in context, there are some interesting points.

At the time this was written, the condition of the economy would have justified such criticism of the government of the previous decade. It is only with hindsight that we can see the long-term benefit of Thatcher's reforms. He does pick up on genuine weaknesses in the financial system of the UK; for example the failure to promote investment because of a priority for dividends - our failure to improve UK productivity since this was written is inexcusable.

His writing is sometimes quite rambling and, certainly towards the end, very preaching. Despite this, and its age, it is still readable and not at all technical, for those with limited economic knowledge.

I would only recommend reading this if you have an interest in the condition of, and events in, the UK economy towards the end of the last century. It is too old and opinionated to be of popular interest now.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars will h, 7 April 2012
Good on basicz. Bit dated. All govnts borrow too much. Money management poor. Is this coalition any different I don't think so.
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20 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish. Save your money, 12 Aug 2004
Rambling, inconsistent and factually inaccurate to an astonishing degree. The most over-rated book in ages (and probably the most thrown across rooms in irritation). The sequel is, remarkably enough, even worse. Give the cash to a deserving charity instead.
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27 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish, 22 Jun 2004
Hutton's book is nothing more than propaganda virtually bereft of economic concepts.
He starts the book by attempting to trash the Tory government voted in in 1979 and also the economy inherited by the Labour government in the mid 1970s claiming that there was 25% unemployment amongst males. A selective memory indeed assuming that's true. Hutton fails to mention that unemployment, on average, is lower under neo-liberalism than Keynsianism. The most dismal picture possible is painted. The intervening Labour years are conspicuous by their absence but those of us who suffered would have thought that Hutton's description of gloom would be more apt to this era. This is why we kept a Tory government in power for two decades after the horrors of Labour.
Had he attacked the disparity in incomes between those at the top and the rest of society he would have had a valid point. But the disparity flourishes under Labour governments too. Millionaires have ways and means of escaping justice such as leaving the country and taking their wealth with them.
Despite economists having abandoned Keynesianism long ago as rubbish, Hutton devotes a chapter to it called 'Why Keynesian Economics is Best'. Unfortunately, the whole chapter is devoted to a weak criticism of neo-liberalism. Keynesianism is nothing more than socialism in disguise and attempts to justify the existence of the inaptly named working classes has included the claim that inheritance tax is justified because your descendants did not earn the money. Yet the current Labour campaign includes adverts saying 'because you've earned it' and 'pick it up. It's yours'. In what way benefit claimants have earned money seized from people who have died is not made clear.
The whole book is rubbish and obviously biased. It's so sad that it merely re-inforces the validity of the neo-liberal doctrine and this is the only possible purpose for reading the book. If this is an example of the best arguments for a socialist government, then Labour should never be voted in ever again. It comes as no suprise to find that Hutton is the ex-economics editor of the Guardian.
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