Equality and the British Left

A study in progressive political thought, 1900-64

By Ben Jackson

Equality and the British Left
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  • ISBN: 9780719073076
  • Publish Date: Nov 2011
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • ISBN: 9781847796462
  • Publish Date: Jul 2013
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    The demand for equality has been at the heart of the politics of the Left in the twentieth century, but what did theorists and politicians on the British Left mean when they said they were committed to 'equality'? How did they argue for a more egalitarian society? Which policies did they think could best advance their egalitarian ideals? Equality and the British Left provides the first comprehensive answers to these questions. It charts debates about equality from the progressive liberalism and socialism of the early twentieth century to the arrival of the New Left and revisionist social democracy in the 1950s. Along the way, it examines and reassesses the egalitarian political thought of many significant figures in the history of the British Left, including L. T. Hobhouse, R. H. Tawney and Anthony Crosland.

    Newly available in paperback for the first time, this book demonstrates that the British Left has historically been distinguished from its ideological competitors on the Centre and the Right by a commitment to a demanding form of economic egalitarianism. It shows that this egalitarianism has come to be neglected or caricatured by politicians and scholars alike, and is more surprising and sophisticated than is often imagined.

    Equality and the British Left offers a compelling new perspective on British political thought that will appeal to scholars and students of British history and political theory, and to anyone interested in contemporary debates about progressive politics.


    'In recognising the fluid movement of ideas across ideological 'boundaries', and in taking a step away from a narrow emphasis on the great books of great men, Jackson reveals the intellectual rationale behind some deeply held Labour sentiments. It is also the most useful study of Labour's political thought which I have read for some time and a timely reminder that equality is a traditional and recurrent Labour belief.'
    Duncan Tanner, University of Wales Bangor

    Reviewing this book has been a genuine pleasure. It is rare to find so valuable and so timely a text as Ben Jackson's Equality and the British Left.
    David Coates, Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy, 16(2), 2008


    List of abbreviations
    Part I - 1900-31: Foundations
    1. Riches and poverty
    2. From each according to their ability
    3. Fair shares
    Part II 1931-45: Economics
    4. Marxists and social democrats
    5. Social justice and economic efficiency
    Part III - 1945-64: Revisions
    6. Means and ends
    7. Let us face the future


    Ben Jackson is University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in Modern British History at University College, Oxford.

    Equality and the British Left

    By Ben Jackson

    Paperback £16.99 / $24.95

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