Mrs Thatcher's vision of the 'new Britain' and the other sides of the 'Cambridge Phenomenon'

Philip Crang, Ron Martin

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Over the past decade, the city of Cambridge has been used increasingly by academics and the media as an exemplar of the role that entrepreneurial high-technology development can play in local and national economic growth. Politically, this symbolism has found a ready resonance with the Thatcher government's vision of the 'new Britain', In this paper the reality and rhetoric behind this use of Cambridge is critically examined. First, the politics and polemics of locality under Thatcherism are highlighted. Second, the dominant account of the much-celebrated 'Cambridge phenomenon' is outlined to reveal its ideological leitmotivs of entrepreneurship, high-technology, postindustrialism, the small firm, and the union of academic science and business. Third, it is shown how these rhetorical constructions of a 'boomtown' locality are in reality weakened by a number of tensions within the 'phenomenon' itself. Moreover, it is then shown that there are important silences in the dominant view of Cambridge, certain 'other sides' to the city that portray a rather different set of meanings, both about Cambridge as a success story and about high-technology development as the basis of economic prosperity. These other sides of Cambridge provide a much more complex and, in some important respects, a very different expression of the socioeconomic renewal championed by Thatcherism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-116
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991

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