Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 1984 privatization of British Telecom was a landmark moment for neoliberalism. It served to popularize and vindicate the sale of state utilities around the world. This article shows how computer models of the future were central for British telecommunications', and thus for Britain's, transition from social democracy to neoliberalism, from monopoly to market. The British telecommunications network was a key interest in both the social democratic and neoliberal British state's plans for the digitalization of Britain. I argue that computers were crucial to the rise of neoliberalism, both as a managerial tool that simulated futures of free markets and as a technology that symbolized and supported the contraction of the British state. This article traces the history of the British telecommunications system's Long Range Planning Department, which was at the heart of British Telecom's privatization. In doing so, it argues that the history of technology is in a unique position to study how tools such as computers both forecast and symbolize the political power of the future.
- industrial dynamics
- INDUSTRIAL DYNAMICS