A set of reflections on British society and culture, this volume falls into two principal parts. The first consists of a pair of essays published in New Left Review in the sixties; “Origins of the Present Crisis,” which suggested a general schema for the analysis of class and power in modern Britain and their relation to its decline; and “Components of the National Culture,” which looked at the pattern of intellectual disciplines associated with the post-war political consensus. One premise of these accounts was a conception of bourgeois revolution, whose critique is sketched in a short intermezzo from the mid seventies.
The second part contains two essays published in the late eighties which review the conjectures of the original texts in the light of developments—political and intellectual—of the subsequent decades. “The Figures of Descent” reconsiders the problem of national decline; “A Culture in Contraflow” traces some of the intellectual reversals of the recent period. The book concludes with a survey of the political conjuncture after the fall of Thatcher, which considers the prospects of the Labour Party within the context of the wider changes that have reshaped European social democracy in these years.