The Relationship between the market and the forum, between exchange and persuasion, between the public realm of the citizen and the private realm of the consumer, has been a central preoccupation of social thought since the days of Aristotle. For most of the post-war period, however, and in most western countries, the tensions inherent in that relationship appeared to have been resolved. Then came the ‘stagflation’ of the 1970s, the rise of the New Right, the associated rebirth of economic liberalism and a variety of more or less successful attempts to clip the wings of the post-war welfare state. Classic questions, which the post-war generation imagined it had answered, returned to the agenda—among them the questions of what citizenship means in a market economy, and of how the promise of citizenship is to be realised in complex modern societies. These questions are of significance to all advanced societies, of course; as the most cursory reading of Vaclav Havel's essays shows, they resonate with particular force in eastern Europe. Perhaps because she has been the chief European testing ground for New Right theory, however, they have also begun to resonate with unusual power in Britain; and it is plausible to imagine that the British case may be more relevant to the rest of the western world than are the various East European cases. Hence, this essay. It begins by looking at the British debate and the factors which have given rise to it, and then tries to clarify some of the issues it poses.