Private Island by James Meek

This text looks at several of the privatisations which have made the UK what it is today. In other words, it adds detail to our knowledge about neoliberal practice. By examining different policy areas like housing and health, it avoids the problem of being another stale historical account of Thatcherism and the Third Way.

The text has three other strengths. Firstly, it pays specific attention to the way privatisation has lessened democratic control over our lives. Secondly, it warns of the possible threat posed by extensive foreign ownership of necessary services. Thirdly, it allows people involved in the processes of privatisation to have a voice.

Nevertheless, the book has some serious shortcomings. It does not offer much of an alternative vision. Nor does it pay enough attention to the positive work of others. These failings are flagged up in a despairing conclusion:

“The advent of the age of gentrification doesn’t preclude the advent of slumification, and nostalgia becomes prophecy.”

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