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A literature emerged in the 1970s which suggested that a number of advanced industrial countries, notably Britain, were becoming ungovernable, or at least harder to govern. The concept was not well defined, but centred on the idea that, as the range of problems that the government was expected to deal with had increased, its capacity to solve them had been reduced. The government had become more ineffective because its ability to secure compliance with its policies had diminished. This was partly because of the intractability of the problems facing government, and excessive citizen expectations, but also reflected resistance to government authority from a variety of groups, notably trade unions. Critics of the concept argued that most European polities were not designed to be governable in the sense of having a central, unchallenged authority, but rather represented a form of compromise between competing groups in society. The term fell out of favour in the 1980s as governments of the right demonstrated a willingness both to reduce the functions of the state and to reassert their authority.


Subjects: Politics.

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