Oh. I was hoping to ignore the new Dominic Sandbrook series on the Eighties. But with a thousand views of this blog in the last three days, I guess I can’t. So in the next few days I will be attempting to put together an analysis of the programme.
This will be a challenge. it combines a simplistic and overarching hypothesis that the eighties were driven by an inward looking domesticity and individualistic aspiration – with a bizarre selection of evidence that may (or may not) support such a view. This is often so random and un-thought-through that unpacking it would be an immense task.
Worst of all is Dominic’s decaditisis – the pathological belief that history happens in discrete ten year units. Shifts to a culture in which individual consumption is more central is seen as characteristic of the 1980s, not something that had been growing for decades unevenly but relentlessly through society. Football hooliganism is seen as something more central to the 1980s than its 1970s antecedents were to its supposed decade.
The other aspect of this that strikes me as extremely odd is the way that Dominic pivots this on cultural change. His work on the 1960s includes a a large dose of suggesting that the “swinging sixties” were a myth, and in his work on the 1970s he dismisses punk in the same way. Only in the 1980s, where the cultural changes become bound with the defeat of working-class solidarity and the rise of the new right does he recognise such cultural change. The reality is that all such changes are partial, contradictory and ebb and flow. Nor are they (as Dominic argues here) simply “bottom up”, but a complicated relationship between individual agency and social/structural factors. All of this needs careful teasing out – not the blunderbuss approach taken here.
[The first part of The 80s With Dominic Sandbrook was shown at 21:00 on BBC2 on 4th August 2016. Another two parts will follow. It was watched again at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07n7gtn]