Steve Ludlam
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Too much pluralism, not enough socialism
Interpreting the unions–party link

This chapter outlines the key features of two perspectives and indicates some limitations. The two perspectives are the liberal-social democratic pluralist perspective; and the perspective of socialist and Marxist writers. Much of this perspective was inspired by Ralph Miliband's Parliamentary Socialism. A good starting point for understanding the post-war perspective on the unions-party link of liberal and social democratic pluralists is the concept of 'pluralistic stagnation', applied to British politics by Samuel Beer. The chapter illustrates the limitations by discussing neglected aspects of the crucial period that falls, roughly, between 1974 and 1983, years that cover both the collapse of the Social Contract and the labour alliance's subsequent civil war. Pluralism, as political theory, celebrated the liberal democratic political system and portrayed it as driven by the free competition of parties and interest groups, from which preferences emerged that parliamentarians and a neutral state machine implemented.

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Interpreting the Labour Party

Approaches to Labour politics and history


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