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What is the state? And what’s it ever done for you?
More than you think.
The state houses us, educates us, employs us, protects us on the street and in the wider world. It is the country we created together, and a part of our national identity. However, in recent years there has been a systematic and covert attack on the state that has turned us all against it – the government have depleted funding and resources, and mounted an ideological assault on the public sector through the media.
Toynbee and Walker travelled around Great Britain gathering the voices of the people who make up the state: nurses and patients, teachers and parents, policemen and civilians. This book is your chance to hear their side of the story.
The story they tell is one of dismemberment across our nation state: a fragmented NHS, a reduced police force, divided schools and a vulnerable military. In Dismembered, it becomes clear that this attack on the state is an attack on each and every one of us, for our peace and productivity as a country depend upon a strong state.
DISMEMBERED lays bare the deliberate dismantling of the public sector and its consequences. Our post-Brexit well-being and prosperity are now at stake.
In a well-ordered society this book would not need to be written, but the society isn’t and it therefore does. Polly Toynbee and David Walker have long prowled the world of modern, dysfunctional, unequal Britain and have, on the whole, painted a disagreeable picture of it. Dismembered, despite its reasonable tone, also paints a disagreeable picture. The onslaught on the state over the last 30 years – the privatisations, outsourcings and dotty business school theorising – has done immense damage to British society, and shows little sign of weakening ... Toynbee and Walker present much damning evidence as to what has happened in Britain ... however, optimism keeps breaking in. To write a book of persuasion you have to believe that people can be persuaded – to hope that if voters only understood why they need an active state they would come to support it.
In an undisguised and unashamed “paean of praise” to the public services, Toynbee and Walker look behind the rhetoric calling for a smaller state to examine the often chaotic and confused ways in which the public sector has been pushed and pulled by successive governments over the last 30 years. They also examine how formerly cherished public institutions have lost the nation’s respect, not least as a result of politicians attacking the civil servants they were working with ... Their argument that “free enterprise only flourishes within a strong public realm” is a persuasive challenge to the prevailing dogma.
Guardian columnist Toynbee, and her co-author Walker, make a powerful case for a powerful state. They’re not anti-capitalist, but they note that deliberate attacks on the NHS, our schools, our police and our military leave all of us more vulnerable.
Dismembered: How the Attack on the State Harms Us All warns of what could be lost, if government continues to hack away at the state. The writers expose the dangers of a government continuing to cut resources while a growing population requires ever more from public services. They call for greater articulation of the positive contribution that the public sector makes to the common good.
[Toynbee & Walker] detail the scale of the assault on the state, and show how the language of right-wing ideology has come to prevail in the media and in public discourse. Their plea is for a restoration of trust in and respect for public service; for policies to be based on evidence rather than ideological assumptions; for public squalor to be addressed in preference to private affluence; for the proportion of GDP to be spent on public services to be increased from the current 39% back towards the 45–50% that most Western democracies aim for, rather than towards the 36% that is the target of the Conservative government. Their argument is backed by a series of journalistic reports from the frontline, based on interviews with often quietly heroic public servants doing their best … The extraordinary reversal in the fortunes of the two main parties at the election suggests that the pendulum might at last be swinging back in the direction that the authors desire. A wide readership of this book might give it a little extra impetus.
Dismembered provides a valuable overview of the changing face of public services. Written in a pacy and accessible style, it’s a book well worth reading for anyone with an interest in social history or public affairs.
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