Smoking for England

Paul Foot

  • Smoke Ring: The Politics of Tobacco by Peter Taylor
    Bodley Head, 384 pp, £9.95, March 1984, ISBN 0 370 30513 2

Some time in the late 1960s the then prime minister Harold Wilson started using a new phrase to describe the world we live in: ‘pluralist democracy’. The word ‘pluralist’, which had been hanging around for a long time without doing any harm to anyone, meant, I think, ‘accepting many interests and ideas, rather than one’. In pluralist democracy, government plays the role of wise and benevolent chairman, holding the ring for the great interests which ‘jockey’ for power, rather than controlling them. The power of these interests, notably the big corporations, was controlled, it was argued, not so much by government as by the ‘jockeying’ of all the other interests. Government is always there, of course, to check any excess: but those who suggested any extension of government over the great corporations were ushering in a dark age of bureaucratic tyranny. This theory later became the central slogan of the Thatcher-Reagan reaction of the Eighties.

You are not logged in