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Retirement, it is argued, was virtually unknown, hence there was not the problem of loss of function and status which seems so apparent today. Burgess presents this viewpoint in the following way: Family and kinship ties persist but they are no longer central and vital. The result is that the older person feels dethroned and devalued where he once reigned supreme. He can no longer count on the role of patriarch in ordering the destiny of his children and grandchildren. He cannot even be sure of being venerated and respected.

In contrast, the trend towards permanent retirement continued, as did age discrimination in hiring practices and occupational downgrading in the run-up to retirement. But the biggest impact must be measured in terms of attitudes and expectations. The sense of pessimism in working-class culture was enormously strengthened. Although it increased dramatically in its importance, retirement came to be viewed as an unnecessary evil. Moreover, apart from urging people to remain at work, few constructive proposals emerged to limit its apparently damaging effects.

It might be objected here that such a perspective is extreme and that it does little justice to the major attempts of reform in the postwar years. However, these attempts have left the elderly vulnerable to unemployment and redundancy and with living standards some twenty years behind the rest of the population. 18 CAPITAUSM AND THE CONSTRUCI10N OF OLD AGE OLD AGE AND RETIREMENT: THE INTERWAR PERIOD Famine, mass unemployment and changes in fertility rates have all played a role - at different historical periods - in isolating older people, causing society to single them out as representing special difficulties.

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