The twenty-five year period that followed the end of the second world war was marked by a number of paradoxes in British political and cultural life. One of the most prominent messages running through all aspects of social life was the notion that Britain had emerged from the destruction and austerity of the war years as a stable, conflict-free society in which consensus and convergence were the key themes. The invention of mass secondary schooling did much to both reflect and confirm this view, encapsulating many of the postwar hopes and ideals for a more egalitarian and prosperous future, one in which the bourgeois ideology of meritocracy — just reward for hard work and talent — dominated political and educational policies and commonsense perspectives on life more generally. Yet beneath these hopes and ideals and the conviction that the British people had earned their just reward, were signs that bode ill for the future. Britain had indeed produced more wealth in the immediate postwar years but very soon after began to fall behind the productivity of its rivals in the international market-place. And while some sections of the population became more prosperous, there was in fact little change in the overall distribution of wealth and privilege. In the social and cultural sphere, there was a popular conception of the 1950s as an era of moral deterioration and rising teenage violence and crime, through which rebellious youth threatened disruption of the social order. As we will see later in this chapter, it has been argued by some analysts of this period that in reality, this culture of rebellion was inflated to displace and contain the threat of any genuine social unrest, and the values and social mores of the majority of the population changed far less rapidly and dramatically than was popularly portrayed at the time.