Labour, charity and voluntary action

Nicholas Deakin and Justin Davis Smith

in The Ages of Voluntarism

Published by British Academy

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264829
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754036 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Original Paperbacks

Labour, charity and voluntary action

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This chapter overturns the simplistic characterisation of the twentieth-century Labour party as antagonistic to voluntarism. As it sets out, while opposition to voluntarism has indeed been a theme throughout Labour's history, particularly on the hard left, the notion of a broad and consistent antagonism is largely a myth, based upon a confusion of charity and philanthropy with other forms of co-operation, mutual aid and active citizenship. Instead, what Attlee called ‘the associative instinct’ has been an overlooked, but nevertheless important, constant in Labour's social thought, from Attlee's experiences as a young man at Toynbee Hall, through the promotion of active and local democracy in the 1940s and the revisionist turn away from macro-economics, and towards quality-of-life issues in the 1950s and 1960s, to the ‘rainbow coalition’ partnerships between local Labour administrations and voluntary groups in the 1980s.

Keywords: Labour party; voluntarism; mutual aid; active citizenship; co-operation; associative instinct; Clement Attlee

Chapter.  9858 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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