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The Socialism Of R.H. Tawney

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Chapter Summary

The deaths of R.H. Tawney and Hugh Gaitskell occurred so close together that they provide an apt symbol for the end of a period in the history of the British labour movement. It was a period in which the right wing of the Labour Party was hard put to it to provide a rationale for its policies. Tawney equated capitalism with private capitalism, and private capitalism with the effective sovereignty of the functionless shareholder. He defined socialism on at least two levels, both of which were inadequate. At one level, he meant the moral values of fraternity and equality, which are, unhappily, terms too vague and general for political guidance until they are embodied in specific social practices and institutions. At another level, he defined socialism by his concept of capitalism: the replacement of private ownership by public ownership or control and the state's acceptance of responsibility for social welfare.

Keywords:British labour movement; Hugh Gaitskell; Labour Party; private capitalism; private ownership; public ownership; R.H. Tawney; socialism



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