In what follows I want to explore his novel White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings as a text that uses the city as the site of opposition, as the locale for a critique of dominant ideology (John Corner and Sylvia Harvey, 1991: p. 11.)
As many commentators have observed, the period of Thatcher's rule was one in which monetarist policies of enterprise and the manipulation of the nation's history went hand in hand. This relationship transformed a number of elements of English national identity. Gone was the post-war optimism in which Britain embraced a far more egalitarian form of social organisation. As John Corner and Sylvia Harvey assert of Thatcherism: "Freedom and independence derive not from civil rights but from choices exercised in the market (Perry Anderson, "The Figures of Descent", 1992, p. 184.)
The sovereignty that matters is not that of king or queen, the lord or the white man, but the sovereignty of the consumer within the marketplace. Massive levels of personal debt and widespread unemployment marked this perceived sovereignty of the consumer. Indeed, as Raphael Samuels suggests, Thatcher's rhetoric managed to effectively obfuscate the fact that her government's policies led to a drastic rise in household debt, from 8 per cent at the beginning of her Prime Minister ship to 14 per cent by its conclusion. In 1983 close to 30 per cent of the London population were living, or in danger of living, below the poverty line. The inner city areas in particular suffered from high unemployment and substandard housing amid the proliferation of the modern movement's tower block public housing.
Many commentators as necessary to slim the bloated government running costs and spiralling national production under Labour regarded the economic policies of Thatcherism. Yet as Perry Anderson has argued, Thatcherism economic record was based on luck as much as effective management. Thatcherism claimed that the Union movement was crippling British production, responsible for a downturn in productivity. Its draconian treatment of Union's in the miner's strike of 1984/5 was therefore portrayed as an economic necessity (Jerry White, London in the Twentieth Century, 2002. p. 222.)
Antonio Gramsci's concept of Hegemony
Hegemony was a concept previously used by Marxists such as Lenin to indicate the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution, but developed by Gramsci into an acute analysis to explain why the 'inevitable' socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Capitalism, it seemed, was even more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the 'common sense' values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting (Gramsci, Antonio (1971).
The working class needed to develop a culture of its own, which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented 'natural'