Journal Article

Labour Revisionism and Qualities of Mind and Character, 1931–79

Jeremy Nuttall

in The English Historical Review

Volume 120, issue 487, pages 667-694
Published in print June 2005 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online June 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cei125
Labour Revisionism and Qualities of Mind and Character, 1931–79

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The story of Labour revisionism has usually been narrated via histories of factional struggle or ideology. This article contends that revisionism cannot be fully understood without considering the role of qualities of mind and character in its development. This is, first, because the egalitarian and tolerant society revisionists pursued was crucially dependent on there being caring and sensitive citizens in it. It is, secondly, because revisionists were themselves constrained, in both their vision of a better society, and their ability to promote it through good personal example, by the limits to their own qualities of mind and character. In systematically exploring revisionism within a framework that places qualities of mind and character at the centre, this article thus explains some of the failures of twentieth-century social democracy, but at the same time suggests that it would be wrong to direct blame for this: a vicious circle existed whereby there simply wasn't enough ‘goodness’ at any point to push society onto a higher moral level, as opposed to one simply characterised by greater civil liberties and an expanding welfare state.

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Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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