Professor Bernhard Rieger delivers inaugural lecture
22 December 2016
Professor Bernhard Rieger delivered his inaugural lecture on 29 November 2016 in the Gustav Tuck Lecture Theatre after introductions by Professor Mary Fulbrook (Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences) and Professor Jason Peacey (Head of the History Department). Entitled "Making Britain Work Again," the lecture considered social and political consequences of new social policies developed in the 1980s to deal with the decade's mass unemployment.
Up to the Eighties, politicians regarded the unemployed as victims of economic problems beyond their control. In the courses of the decade, officials began to regard the unemployed themselves as a prime economic problem because those out of work supposedly refused to take up paid employment. To ensure the return of the unemployed to the labour market, the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher developed a series of measures that both reduced benefit levels and threatened recipients with the withdrawal of welfare payments unless they accepted low-wage employment. As these measures became entrenched beyond the Thatcher years, they reinforced a general tendency of post-industrial societies to develop low-wage employment sectors and thus contributed to Britain's pronounced social inequality. Narrowing the gap between rich and poor, Rieger suggested towards the end of his lecture, would require a long-term and expensive effort because it would have to address profound social transformations that have occurred over three decades.