For 30 years after the Second World War learning disability research and practice radically changed the ways in which people were understood and treated. An immense body of work and new and progressive agencies supported people with learning disabilities towards liberation and social inclusion. However, over the last 30 years, these gains have been rolled back. This article explains why and how this happened. Using a broadly Marxist analysis, it examines how the introduction of a social care market has impacted upon the quantity and quality of services and support available. It offers a comparison between the radical thinking and publicly funded support structures of the past and the independent service provision of the 21st century in order to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each. It concludes with a consideration of possible futures.