Liberalism Divided: A Study in British Political Thought, 1914-1939

By Michael Freeden | Go to book overview

8
SOCIALISM WITH A LIBERAL FACE

THIS chapter will attempt to take up a theme by way of illustration rather than exhaustive treatment. The question of the permeation of liberalism into Labour and socialist positions is largely unexplored in British studies, in part because it is a perspective that has always gone against the grain of the argument presented by the Fabians and other analysts of British socialism. The following pages will assess the prevalence of liberal assumptions in the thought of two British socialists, H. J. Laski and R. H. Tawney. The New Statesman, especially the contributions of G. D. H. Cole, also affords insight into the emergence of liberal notions as central components of socialist ideas. These cases will demonstrate the spread of liberalism outside its conventional domain. Often this was without the explicit acknowledgement of thinkers who expressed unmistakable liberal views alongside the other tenets they preferred to stress.1 Perhaps permeation is not altogether the correct word, as the intellectual tradition of British socialism was nourished in a rich liberal soil from the outset. Clearly, major ingredients of liberal ideology were preserved, even developed, within the scope of British socialist thought.2 This is not to argue that all self-styled socialists were liberals in disguise. Rather, it is a restatement, from another perspective, of the assertion put forward in Chapter 6 that the structure of liberal ideology does not correspond with the party structure. This time, however, the emphasis is on a heavy ideological overlap between the core, adjacent, and peripheral beliefs of British socialism and liberalism, even if the internal arrangements of the respective ideologies exhibit important differences. The consumption, assimilation, and dissemination of liberal essentials by the above-named thinkers is, it is contended, sufficient to establish the case this chapter wishes to make; it is recognized of course that the range and intensity of its argument can be augmented.

____________________
1
See the remarks in Chapter 1 on the limitations of exploring intentions as a tool for the analysis of ideological predispositions.
2
See the perceptive remarks in Greenleaf, The British Political Tradition, vol. ii. The Ideological Heritage, pp. 412-17.

-294-

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Liberalism Divided: A Study in British Political Thought, 1914-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVENTIONS xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The War on Liberalism 18
  • 3 - The Worker as Citizen 45
  • 4 - The Liberal Summer School: the First Decade 78
  • 5 - Human Nature, Economic Laws, and the Reconstitution of Capitalism 127
  • 6 - Liberalism, Socialism, and Labour 177
  • 7 - The Elements of Liberal Humanism 223
  • 8 - Socialism with a Liberal Face 294
  • 9 - A Decade of Dormancy 329
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 373
  • Index 385
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