DJ Taylor Middleclass Mania 2009: Sunday 10

DJ Taylor Middleclass mania

Sunday, 10 May 2009 Some enterprising pollster ought to ask the question: which 20th-century decade most fascinates the British public The pat explanation for
this torrent of print is the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s ascent to power. Underlying it, though, is a much more wide-ranging concern for the circumstances that encouraged her, and a deeply held conviction that the period 1970-79 marked the end of something &ndash the Butskellite Consensus, if that phrase means anything to anyone under 40, or at any rate a way of looking at the world that the intervening 30 years have blown into fragments. However exaggerated, or susceptible to burlesque &ndash see for example EP Thompson’s essay "Writing by Candlelight” &ndash attitudes of this kind were an authentic reflection of how millions of middle-class people actually felt. If, like my father, you were a fifty-something middle-manager trapped between a terrified executive and a gang of surly shop stewards, with the inflation rate at 20 per cent and the country in hock to the International Monetary Fund, you could be excused a little bourgeois hysteria, and you could be excused its bleak transmission to your children. One of the most bruising legacies of the 1970s was middle-class resentment of organised labour: its consequences are still unravelling. As with the last Harry Potter, about &pound20m that could have been used to shore up the world of bookselling &ndash a retail market badly in need of a cash bonus &ndash has simply been thrown away. Short of re-imposing retail price maintenance, there is no solution to the bizarre spectacle of independent booksellers finding it cheaper to buy a particular title from the shop down the road rather than order it from the publisher. The most effective response &ndash which I don’t suppose anyone will have the guts to propose &ndash would be for every other bookseller in the UK to boycott the book. If millions of pounds are to be lost on The Lost Symbol, then why not let Waterstone’s lose them

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