State of Paralysis: A Cultural History of Brexit

By John Elsom

An exploration of the complex relationship between Britain and Europe since WWII, and the cultural shifts that have culminated in the turmoil of Brexit.

ISBN: 9780718895174


We have not been driven into the quagmire of Brexit at the point of a gun or out of economic necessity. It is the consequence of 70 years of indecision about the closeness of our relationship with our continental neighbours and what our role should be on the world’s stage.

State of Paralysis analyses the climate of opinion in Britain since the end of World War II. These decades have witnessed revolutionary changes in power, knowledge and global politics. We have seen the rise of the Internet, space travel and the nuclear industries. The old European empires have collapsed, the Cold War has become a distant memory and global warming is posing an additional threat. Would Britain be better equipped to face these challenges on its own or as part of the EU? This was the question posed by the 2016 EU Referendum, but has it been answered?

John Elsom describes how the party political system has broken down, its constitutional implications and how it influences our sense of national identity. He brings to the debate the perspective of a political and cultural commentator who has witnessed at first hand many of the events that now shape our lives.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 272

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Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

John Elsom has been a writer since leaving university. His works include many books, plays and extensive journalism. He was the theatre critic for the BBC’s magazine, The Listener, broadcast extensively and was a talent scout for Paramount Pictures. He was the world president of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO NGO, and received a knighthood from the Romanian government for his services to European culture after the Cold War. He was awarded a PhD from City University in London and has taught as a visiting professor to universities in many parts of the world. With The Lutterworth Press, he published Missing the Point: The Rise of High Modernity and the Decline of Everything Else in 2007.


1. Never Again
2. The Dream of M. Monnet
3. The Floating Island
4. The Wind of Change
5. Acid Rain
6. Untune that String
7. The Smack of Firm Government
8. Perspectives
9. Maastricht and the Bastards
10. Breaking the Mould
11. The Third Way
12. Trial by Coalition
13. Raw Brexit
14. A Bloody Difficult Woman
15. Square One

Appendix: World War Movies and Documentaries from Radio Times Listings, 17-30 November 2018


Endorsements and Reviews

… by far the most readable, comprehensive and authoritative account I have ever seen of the last 80 years in the UK.
Professor Emeritus John Pick, Gresham College

As one of the first serious attempts to provide understanding and insight from a specifically cultural perspective on Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – Brexit – this study is, by definition, important…. Elsom himself, in the end, is a continuingly amusing guide, one who consistently provides verbal food for thought on such Brexit-related subjects as Equality and Democracy.
Don Rubin, in The IATC Journal / Revue de l’AICT, Issue 19, June 2019

An outstanding narrative on how political developments and public policy changes have influenced public opinion on Britain’s relationship with Europe over the last seventy years.
David Fell