Published 12 August 2020
It has been suggested that the COVID epidemic, and its profound economic and social consequences, may produce major changes in the dominant ideas that help set the boundaries to social action. This note reflects on significant shifts that have taken place in the way collective action has been thought about at various stages in British history since the Second World War and the part that economic and demographic trends have played in prompting such changes. The periods it distinguishes are four: 1945-1976 the Post War Settlement’; 1976-1997 Constraint and Change; 1997-2010 An Expanded Welfare Role; 2010 to 2019 Austerity. These are familiar, if sometimes contested periods, but the paper seeks to distinguish both the continuities to be found in each period and the forces that stimulated change.