Social and Liberalism in Britain Sample Essay



Sample Title: Social and Liberalism in Britain Sample Essay


1. Introduction

2. Social Welfare

3. Economy Crisis

4. Housing

5. Education

6. Youth Culture

7. Women Movements

8. Conclusion


In what ways and why had Britain become a more socially liberal society by 1970 compared with the 1950s


. Britain’s social and liberal systems in the 1950s were not retrogressive and did not address adequately the building block of a society. Hence, the systems to a larger extend, allowed less active participation of women in political and social welfares and labor market and placed little emphasis on health, similarly, in the 1950s, the education systems was less developed in terms of the number of schools and institutions of higher learning. Though, the economy in 1950s was affluent and contributed to better living standards, fewer efforts by the labor government were considered to streamline the social welfare of the people. On the other hand, the period 1970s contributed to major achievements and challenges in Britain compared to 1950s. Despite of the role of women being proactive and enhanced education system, challenges such as economic crisis, the Youth culture employment among others were worse than in 1750s.

This paper addresses ways in which the British society became more social and liberal in 1970s than in 1950s. The writer shows that the British society was more social and liberal in 1970s than in the 1950s in aspects such as social welfares, economy, housing, education, youth culture and women's movements.

Social Welfare

The labor party provided a comprehensiveform of social services for all British citizens in 1950’s. Hennessy (2006) illustrates this system was essential for addressing and supporting various social problems such as illness, old age as well as create equal opportunities among its citizens. The period was marked by government liberalizing the social sectors where individual wereallowedtopurchase services such as insurance. The social welfare fixed by the government in 1950s was unique. It was made up of National Health Service, universal social insurance, state-supported housing, and the public education. Hennessy notes the National Insurance Act of 1946 helped to strengthen health service delivery in the 1950s (2006). The Act created a contributory system where people paid a flat rate to purchase insurance against those times when they could not find work. The National Assistance Actestablished in 1948 summed up the system by involving those who did not qualify for social insurance. The system was strengthened in the 1970s. Variations were effected on the Act to adopt the changing times. The variations continued to provide support integrated services in the 1970s to present (Agh, 1998).

The Labor government in introducing charges for patients who were seeking spectacles; this was followed again in 1952 with charges on the debentures, prescription and dental treatment. This was in opposition in 1970s. In 1975, the child Benefit Act was fixed. The Act substituted family stipends with the child and lone parent subsidy. However, the Thatcher’s government introduced new charges for eye tests in 1970s (Agh, 1998).

The Economic Crisis

According to Alford (1988) the year 1973 indicated the end of British economic austerity enjoyed in the 1950s. Employment, in Britain increased by 1 million by 1975. It was over five percent of the workforce. By 1977, it had grown up to 5.5 percent,and in 1979 it remained at 5.3 percent. This period was characterized by high inflation. Hence, this time was better described as a decade of economic crisis. The UK witnessed unprecedented inflation and the government was effectively bankrupt, needing a global lending of $5000. The pace of overall economic growth suffered a significant decrease; between 1974 and 1975, the economy was tightening. This is unlike in the 1950s where Britain was a prosperous society.

A normal person had enough amounts of disposable money on luxuries. Consumer goods were available. By 1960 about 44% of households possessed a laundry machine. The rate of inflation was higher than in 1950s. This was until 1983 that inflation begun to slow down. Alford (1988) argues the economic crisis of the 1970s in Britain begun in the 1960s. It was characterized by a high rate of unemployment. Alford (1988) points out the government of the day were to blame for the crisis. The government placed more emphasis on the productive health of the economy; this was aimed at stabilizing the UK economy. However, others such as Chick (1998)indicate the basis of the economic downturn was a result of political misunderstanding between the ruling parties.


To address the issue and adopt the economic strength enjoyed in the 1950s, the government persuaded the trade unions to thwart a pay increase to not more than five percent. This did not go well with the unions, they refused to obey and this resulted in a wave of strikes across the country. The strike eroded the welfare state.

The popularity of the government with its citizens declined and in 1979, the Conservatives won the elections with Margret Thatcher becoming the Britain’s first woman prime minister. According to Chick (1998) Thatcher introduced blanket measures to increase the British life. This includes free markets economic, decrease of welfare budget and encouraging people to help them rather than wait for the government and other taxpayers (Frances and Cloward, 1993).

The period also marked a shift of priorities for the government from maintaining full employment to controlling inflation (Robbins, 1994). The modest reallocation of wealth and income attained up to 1970s was overturned by cuts in income tax and a trend to a more reverting form of indirect taxes through Value Added Tax. This was in opposition in the 1950s where the people had excess disposable income.


The social policies in the 1950s period left a lot to be desired in terms of the social welfare. At that period, poverty had disenfranchised and alienated the average British family. The healthcare system had failed to protect the citizens, yet this was one of the fundamental rights of each and every citizen. In 1970s, under the period of the Margaret Thatcher period, many people opted for local authority housing other than privately owned which they were subjected to exploitation. The local authorities provided high quality standard housing and basic rights. Many of the inhabitants were slum dwellers and as result opted for the council houses because of the well-designed cottage-style housing. After the second world-war, the government and local authorities under the welfare state program had an ambitious plan to improve living standards of its citizen as well as rebuilding damaged houses as the effect of the post-war sets in. The spillover effects of the war had sunk the economy deep into crisis making the ambitious housing plan a mirage.

In 1970, saw a shrink in confidence as the ambitious housing projects undertaken by the local authorities and the government were faced with a myriad of challenges and technical mishaps. The post-war reconstructions were hampered by poor building of the houses and marked with constant increases of rents, which eroded the tenants’ confidence on the councils and the government. In the 1970 also ushered in the championing of consumer rights and social welfarism to safeguard the interests and rights of tenants. The period also saw widespread rent strikes in Britain, cities such as Glasgow, London, Liverpool and Sheffield saw crowds venting to the streets the dissatisfaction and anger.

France served as another epicenter of the second world-war, and as a result, suffered a massive blow as far as housing is concerned in the 1950s. The post-war construction had placed enormous pressure on the French government to take necessary drastic measures to address the social menace of housing. The pressure on housing was catapulted mainly by immigrants and the native French citizens. In 1970s France embarked on an ambitious plan to transform its cities through a comprehensive urbanization program. The program was to modernize the nation through infrastructure, to which housing happened to be the core. The French government also faced a fair share of bottlenecks, chief to be the immigrants from its colonies in Africa; North Africa to be precise.Native French subjected the immigrants to racial seclusion and discrimination.



In 1950s, the education system was not universal and it lacked various facilities. In addition, the schools were insufficient to absorb the rising population because ofthe baby boom. Though, the school going children were supplied with free milk, in 1970s, free milk initiatives were abandoned (Robbins, 1994).1970s saw secondary schools becoming universal, there was growth of higher education, thus in the 1970s, there was a total of forty six universities and thirty polytechnics compared to seventeen universities in the 1950s. Another improvement which impacted on, education was that, in 1973, the government raised the school leaving age to sixteen years besides introducing a new national curriculum in 1988 (Robbins, 1994).

Youth Culture

1970s was characterized with the "punks” and "skinheads” throughout the decade, the youth were a separate entity, and they were knit together by pop music and fashion. The Rock ‘n’ Roll music introduced by Americans in the 1950s characterized the youth popular culture. Bands such as the Rolling stones, Sex pistols, and the Beatles led to the issue of rebelliousness among the youth, in a new and a marketable manner. That is, it gave them a taste of ritual, icon and heroes and an argument which was closed to their elders, to whom its charm and attraction stayed unknown. According to Cronin (1975) the onset of youth culture during this time coincided with the rise of what was known as the "permissiveness”. The absolute liberation of the youth from parental control was perhaps because of permissiveness. This was attributed to various factors. Robbins (1994) illustrates the decline of Christianity as a major cause. Christianity loosened the grip of the Victorian morality on the middle class and the "respectable” working group (Cronin, 1975). The massive expansion of institutions of higher learning took many young people away from their parents. This led to a new generation of students, the "revolutionaries”. They sought to accelerate the pace of social change, destroy the capitalistic whose prosperity and welfare state made it possible for them to attend the universities and to democratize the institutions of higher learning. The youth doctrine was part of reserved personal preference, part of idealistic socialism and part of opposition to authority; it gained pace in 1970, in many sit-ins and protests. Another cause of permissiveness was the spread and improvement of contraception, which was introduced in the 1960s which had a significant impact on sexual behavior and attitudes. Also, affluence in itself gave all the people, young and old exemption from the traditional discipline of economic survival and encouraged instant satisfaction of individual needs (Cronin, 1975). In 1970s, the effects of permissiveness were open to all convention Britons; drugs, sex and crime. Thus, in this period, about three-fifths of couples were embracing contraceptives and about twenty percent of married women were using the pill. In greater numbers, women assumed that sex was something for men to enjoy as well as something for them.The rate of premarital sex increased as the "sexual revolution” of the Western world occurred in Britain. The figures of illegitimate births shoot up by sixty percent by 1970s.

Drug use was a key element of youth culture; however, it was banned for young people. Godthorpe (1980) demonstrates the drugs were only available by prescription through the National Health Service. In the 1950s, drug users were mostly the elderly and middle-aged. They mostly used the drugs as sleeping pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers. In the 1960s and 1970s, youth in large numbers started using heroin, cannabis. Hashish, was a popular drug embraced (Hobsbawm, 1994).Though the laws were passed making the possessions of non-prescription drugs illegal, but it had an insignificant effect.

Women Movements

According to Thane (1996) women were more vocal about feminist issues in 1970s than in 1950s.The majority of British feminists of the 1950s was linked to the New Left. Thus, they viewed the advances towards equality for women had not resulted into something successful. In 1970s, many women felt the sexual objectification, and the society’s customs and beliefs for women were also restraining. They determinedly tried to dislodge the profound cultural roots of the oppressions of females. They created strong actions against wife battering and rape (Thane, 1996). The leading British feminists were Germaine Greer and Doris Lessing. Greer was an ablest feminist activist. She argued the new objective of the women's movement was to be a revolution in gender relation. In the Female Eunuch (1970) Greer focused her anger into an attack on gender typecasts and the course of their social edifices (Hobsbawm, 1994). Greer contended that in a capitalist society, women were taught to be both the mighty spenders and emblems of liberal spending; thus, they were made into submissive and insensitive sex objects. On the other hand, Lessing wrote of the difficulties women faced in winning psychic wholeness in a society controlled by men. For her, liberation confirms self-understanding and incorporating personality.


The British society achieved much in the 1970s as compared to 1950s. However, various challenges stood in its way to success. The economic crisis, which was a major global problem during the 1970s, had a great impact on its economy. The country experienced high inflation rates, high rate of unemployment among other challenges. This was in contrast to the 1950s where they general living standards of people were high and people had the extra income to dispose.


The education system was a major step than gained much growth in the 1970s than in 1950s. There was an increase in institutions of higher learning and raising of school going age to sixteen. This was in contrast in 1950s.During 1950s, women were not active and were most inclined towards New Left ideologies. However, in 1970s, the role of women assumed a new direction. Women were determined to displace the traditional myth that women were meant to be submissive. The active role of women was illustrated through Germaine Greer and Doris Lessing.


Agh, A., 1998. The Politics of Central and Eastern Europe Sage, London

Alford, B.W., 1988. British Economic Performance Since 1945. London: Macmillan

Chick, M., 1998.Industrial Policy In Britain, 1945-1951. Cambridge: Cambridge University press

Cronin, C., 1975. Permissive Britain: Social Change in the Sixties and Seventies’. London: Pitman

Frances, F. P., and Cloward, A., 1993. Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare.New York: Vintage Books

Godthorpe, J.H., 1980. Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain. Oxford: Clarendon press

Hennessy, P., 2006. Having It So Good: Britain in the 1950s. London: Allen Lane.

Hobsbawm, E., 1994. The Age of Extremes - The short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, Michael Joseph, London

Robbins, K., 1994. The Eclipse of a Great Power - Modern Britain 1870 - 1992, 2nd edition, Longman, London

Thane, P., 1996.Foundations of the Welfare State 2nd edition. Longman: London


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