Steve McKevitt


Thesis Title: The Persuasion Industries in the UK and the Inculcation of Persuasion within British Society from 1969 to 1997.
Start Year: 2013




Primary: Dr Adrian Bingham | Secondary: Dr Julie Gottlieb


Research Topic

On 1 October 1963, Harold Wilson delivered a speech at the Labour Party conference, which aligned his party with scientific and technical innovation that was radically changing lives and bringing to an end the period of postwar austerity.

"The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or outdated methods on either side of industry."

Wilson successfully positioned his policies as a progressive alternative to the old-fashioned ideas of the Conservatives and his party was returned to Government in 1964, after almost 15 years in opposition.

The speech, and the ensuing optimism of his early years as Prime Minister, echoed the sentiments of John Maynard Keynes’ essay Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.

Written a year after the crash of 1929, Keynes put forward the idea that technological innovation was the key to a brighter future. Addressing the issue of scarcity, a salient issue at the start of the depression, Keynes argued that science and technology would liberate humankind doing away with the need work altogether; allowing us to do away with, ‘all kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital.’

The post-war establishment of a national grid and increased access to credit seemed to be bearing Keynes out as the lives of ordinary citizens improved steadily throughout the 50s and 60s. A domestic electricity supply – a cheap, clean form of energy – allowed homes to become filled with ‘labour saving’ white goods – acquired through new hire purchase agreements.

People began to have increasing amounts of ‘free time’ – more than ever before in the modern era. Wilson was absolutely convinced that this trend would continue. He was not alone. Nuclear power seemed to promise that energy would cease to be a commodity at all. UK Energy Secretary Tony Benn, by his own admission completely bought into Eisenhower’s vision of ‘Atoms for Peace’ epitomised by the claim of US Atomic Energy Commission Lewis L. Strauss that, ‘Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter’

Clearly, that future did not come to pass, these views appear almost laughably utopian today, as we undergo a prolonged period of austerity and economic stagnation. Certainly the future we've ended up with is completely different. We are working longer hours than ever before and our economy is not geared towards making our lives better or to increasing our leisure time.

The area I am researching is whether the alternative future we ended up with - the everything now of extraordinary levels of consumption - was inevitable. Did we in fact sacrifice the opportunity for lives of leisure in return for the lifestyles of consumerism?


Academic Background

  • B.A. (Hons) Politics, University of Sheffield, 1988


Published Work

  • Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers 8th Edition ed. Sonia Maasik and Jack Soloman (Bedford/St. Martin's, New York, December, 2014) Includes two chapters from Everything Now.
  • The Solar Revolution: One World. One Solution. Providing the Energy and Food for 10 Billion People (Icon, London, 2014)
  • The Solar Revolution: Why bottled sunshine is the fuel of the future (Guardian Books, London, 2014)
  • Everyday Is Play (Game Paused, London, 2014)
  • City Slackers: Workers of The World You Are Wasting Your Time (2006) Cyan/Marshall Cavendish.
  • Why The World is Full of Useless Things (2006) Cyan/Marshall Cavendish
  • Everything Now: Communication, Persuasion and Control: How the Instant Society is Shaping What We Think (2012) Route
  • Project Sunshine: How The Sun Can Help Science to Fuel and Feed The World (2013) Icon.


Other work

  • Contributor to The Huffington Post.



  • 2005 Visiting Lecturer, Department of Communication and Media, Sheffield Hallam University
  • 2006 Visiting Lecturer, School of Music Humanities and Media, University of Huddersfield
  • 2007 Guest Lecturer, Department of Communication and Media, Sheffield Hallam University
  • 2008 Guest Lecturer, Medical School, University of Oxford.
  • 2013 Visiting Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Brighton
  • 2013 Visiting Lecturer, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
  • 2013 Guest Lecturer, The Royal Institution.
  • 2013 Visiting Lecturer, Department of Politics, Leeds University.
  • 2013 Visiting Lecturer, Applied Global Ethics, Leeds Metropolitan University.
  • 2013 Guest Lecturer, Royal Society Arts
  • 2014 Guest Lecturer, Business School, University of Sunderland


Professional affiliations

  • Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CMIPR)
  • Private sector board member of the Leeds City Region LEP: deputy chair, Business Investment and Growth Panel.
  • Chairman of Golden UK Ltd