Much has been written about Britain’s trailblazing post-1970s privatisation programme, but the biggest privatisation of them all has until now escaped scrutiny: the privatisation of land. Since Margaret Thatcher took power in 1979, and hidden from the public eye, about 10 per cent of the entire British land mass, including some of its most valuable real estate, has passed from public to private hands. Forest land, defence land, health service land and above all else local authority land—for farming and school sports, for recreation and housing—has been sold off en masse. Why? How? And with what social, economic and political consequences? The New Enclosure provides the first ever study of this profoundly significant phenomenon, situating it as a centrepiece of neoliberalism in Britain and as a successor programme to the original eighteenth-century enclosures. With more public land still slated for disposal, the book identifies the stakes and asks what, if anything, can and should be done.
“The biggest privatisation of all isn’t housing, railways, or utilities, but the oldest source of oligarchic power—land. In this clear, readable, accessible and maddening book, Brett Christophers makes clear the massive mismanagement, waste, opacity and centralisation of wealth that has resulted. Necessary reading for anyone who wants to know where ruling class power comes from, and how to take it back.”
“The detailed case for an English Land Commission, and the need for so many other new radical ideas not yet even first thought of. Why don’t we surround London and fill the Home Counties with National Parks where the landowner has to look after the footpaths and cycle paths and over which we all have a right to roam? The New Enclosure raises, but does not yet answer the question of from where the new commons will arise.”
“This book forcefully explains how land ownership matters today. The New Enclosure combines a systematic analysis of the role of land and landownership in capitalist society with a compelling critique of neoliberalism in Britain. Christophers demonstrates that recent decades have seen a massive transfer of public land into private control. He documents the overwhelmingly negative and unjust consequences of this new process of enclosure and demolishes the ideology of privatization upon which it is based. No one who cares about the politics of land can ignore this powerful argument.”
“British taxpayers have been robbed blind by the recent fire sale of 400 billion pounds of public land. Like Henry VIII’s destruction of the monasteries, Thatcher’s privatisation frenzy has led to the destruction of public assets unprecedented amongst leading economies, and to the enrichment of landowners and financiers. In this comprehensive and rigorously researched book, Brett Christophers opens up a field of study—public land—largely buried by academia, landowners and no doubt, by financiers. A must-read.”