It is not that the long boom of 1992 to 2008 was characterised by bourgeois complacency or a servile respect for authority. The paranoid style, established after Watergate, dominated drama. One only had to see a CEO or chief of police walk on to a set to know that the hero would unmask him as the villain in the closing scenes.
So desperate did writers become to find new ways to show the evil of authority, that earlier this year BBC Two showed in apparent seriousness The Shadow Line, a thriller whose psychopathic, all-controlling villain was a rogue MI5 officer running drugs to fund . . . a police pension scheme. The far superior Bourne trilogy makes my point for me almost as well. The most successful thrillers of recent years starred a heroic American agent who was not fighting radical Islam or an enemy government but a sinister clique within his own CIA.
Writers imagined every kind of powerful person presiding over every kind of disaster, except powerful bankers presiding over a financial disaster or the leaders of the European Union presiding over an economic one. As with the City, the EU was simply not a subject they thought about. Dystopian writing about Europe followed the pattern set by J.G. Ballard. Rich, hedonistic and safe, Europe was too contented for its own good. Its bored inhabitants would yearn for violent thrills to escape from the tedium of the social democratic paradise the worthy bureaucrats had built. Hardly any artist realised that the worthy bureaucrats were more delirious than any transgressive thrill-seeker, or guessed that their dull dreams of a single currency would lead the continent to ruin.