What We Do in the Shadows: dual industrial policy during the Thatcher governments, 1979–1990

Richard Woodward, James Silverwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Selective industrial policy in the United Kingdom is conventionally believed to have vanished prior to the global financial crisis. This article, in contrast, argues that industrial policy remained an intrinsic, if seldom acknowledged, element of neoliberal statecraft. The basis of this is a subterfuge, conceptualised here as a ‘dual industrial policy’, which we explore via an empirical focus on the Thatcher governments. Throughout this time, actions explicitly endorsed by governments as industrial policy generally corresponded with neoliberalism’s hostility to intervention. These conveniently distracted attention from a second set of policies which, although never codified by government as industrial policy, were intended to affect the allocation of resources between economic activity. Analysis of official government publications and expenditure reveals that industrial policy expenditure under Thatcher was far higher than customarily reported. The United Kingdom’s approach has important implications for debates about neoliberal resilience, especially neoliberalism’s capacity to conscript apparently contradictory ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-364
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number2
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


  • Thatcher
  • industrial policy
  • industrial strategy
  • neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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