For the past four years the major industrial OECD countries have been in the throes of a crisis brought to a head by the oil price rises of 1973-74, but arising from longer-run difficulties which had already begun to appear by the late 1960s. The crisis is by no means over. The situation of the economically stronger countries such as the USA, Japan and West Germany seems to be on the upturn but the recovery of others including Britain is still very much in doubt. With increasing oil output, Britain's balance of payments is rapidly improving but this is far from a sufficient condition for dealing with unemployment, stagnation in key sectors, regional imbalance, low productivity and decline or collapse in the social services. And in any case the issues for Britain are not simply economic, but involve also social and political problems which recession has sharpened: the difficulties of coming to terms with Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism; racial conflict; political violence; persistent poverty; the erosion of the welfare state; and corruption and decay in our police and local government bureaucracies.
It is with some trepidation that we undertake in this issue of the Bulletin to analyse some of these dangers and to call attention to some of the opportunities which lie beyond them.