Recovering the social and historical causes of Glasgow’s excess mortality: Public policies and 'personal' troubles

C. Collins, I. Levitt

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This presentation will report recent findings of ongoing research to inform public understanding of Glasgow’s ‘excess mortality’. In previous work, based on government archival sources, we have shown how far-reaching plans to ‘modernise’ the Scottish economy from the early 1960s impacted on the City – with deleterious effects which were soon understood within government to have very serious implications for the future. Nonetheless, there was no proportionate adjustment to the ‘modernisation’ policy by 1979 and Glasgow entered the long-period of Conservative government thereafter with a heightened vulnerability to the impacts of UK-wide neo-liberal policies. The research we now report demonstrates how government in Scotland sought even more strongly to reject the growing awareness of the social and political causes of Scotland’s, and particularly Glasgow’s, increasingly troubling health outcomes; prevented researchers from exploring causal relationships between adverse social circumstances (notably unemployment), ‘destructive patterns’ in family life and health, and insisted instead on individualistic and behaviouralist explanations and solutions (‘the ability of individuals to choose healthier ways of living for themselves and their families’). Drawing on Simmel and Polanyi, we argue that an entrenched and resilient planning paradigm is deeply implicated in causing the troubling health phenomena evident in Scotland – and particularly Glasgow – in recent decades, and that this was exacerbated after 1979 by a sustained ‘denialism’ which not only set government against ‘recovering the social’ in public health, but also undermined the limited attempts at mitigation of health problems in Glasgow which had been put in place by the 1974-79 Labour Government.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages186
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017
EventRecovering the Social: Public Policies and ‘Personal’ Troubles - University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Apr 20176 Apr 2017


ConferenceRecovering the Social
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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