Between mammon and Marx
Capitalism, Communism and ‘planning for freedom’
in This is your hour
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One of the Oldham group’s ‘middle ways’ had a clearly secular source: the sociology of Karl Mannheim. The (personally agnostic) Hungarian sociologist believed that Christianity could strengthen liberal democracy in its confrontation with totalitarianism and also humanise the inevitable shift towards more ‘planned’ societies. All group members broadly criticised what they saw as the waste, inequality, greed and chaos of laissez-faire capitalism, and some saw value in Marxism, even if its atheism and the oppression of Soviet Communism were rejected. Mannheim’s concept of ‘planning for freedom’ offered a middle way that would encourage Christian-inspired norms but still leave room for individual liberty and local initiative. But the concept also provoked internal dissent in the group from both the right and the left. These discussions were also reflected in mixed feelings about post-war reconstruction: while the group welcomed moves towards ‘social justice’, some members’ critiques of the emerging welfare state show the contested margins of its consensus.

This is your hour

Christian intellectuals in Britain and the crisis of Europe, 1937–1949

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