Even in the most optimistic economic projections, the UK will remain squeezed for at least ten years. At the same time, the large growth in income inequalities experienced since the 1970s has not been reversed. Attitudes to wealth and income inequalities are cast in a new light in this era of austerity. Consumer behaviours and attitudes to money which were fostered by the boom of the Eighties and Nineties are obsolete – and, worse, they will create growing resentment if unchecked.
Since there seems to be no magic bullet to solve the current economic crisis, then we must focus on how to cope with life in squeezed and unequal Britain. Our current social attitudes to wealth, disposable income, savings, owning property, the state, pensions, and even what we expect to inherit from our parents is going to have to change. If these changes happen unthinkingly, social tensions will rise. This is not just about the richest 1% – it is about how children will grow up resenting the fact that they cannot hope to have a life as ‘good’ as their parents. If we don’t change our ideas about the connection between wealth, income and happiness, then riots and social unrest will continue.
But ideas about wealth, earnings, consumption and happiness have undergone this kind of seismic shift before: the conspicuous consumption of the 1920s gave way to a culture of disgust with decadence in the 1930s. We can learn to live in Squeezed Britain, and this conference offered the opportunity to find out how.
Resources kindly provided by our speakers can be downloaded below.
Four blogs have resulted from the discussions at the conference.
On the Inequalities Blog, see the following three posts by Charlotte Cavaille:
Professor John Holmwood discusses Spectacle and reality: inequality in the second Elizabethan age on the British Politics & Policy blog at LSE.
A report will be available soon.
Professor Gordon Brown, Warwick University
Elizabeth Clery, Co-director, British Social Attitudes Survey
Naomi Eisenstadt, Department of Education, University of Oxford
Sir John Gieve, Chairman of VocaLink
Professor John Hills, LSE
Professor John Holmwood, University of Nottingham
Paul Johnson, Director, IFS
Dr Omar Khan, Head of Policy, Runnymede Trust
Gareth Morrell, Research Director, National Centre for Social Research
Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent
Martin Vander Weyer, Business Editor, The Spectator
Karl Wilding, Head of Policy, Research and Foresight, NCVO
Dr Mark Williamson, Director, Action for Happiness
Matthew Whittaker, Resolution Foundation