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This chapter considers how British socialist and social democratic thought from the late nineteenth century to the present has treated the objective of helping people to fulfil their potential, talents and ambitions. Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century socialist thought generally retained a large measure of Enlightenment and Victorian optimism about the continuing progress of society through reason. The chapter argues that Gordon Brown's party conference speech in 2007 represents something of a landmark in British political history in the extent to which it placed the idea of encouraging people's talents and ambitions at the centre of his political vision. It also points to some ways in which an emphasis on encouraging the development of people's potential, talents and ambitions has been, and can continue to be, of substantial benefit to socialists, in terms of helping them to win elections and achieving some of their deepest objectives of equality and empowerment.
This chapter provides a dilemma right at the heart of historical and contemporary progressivism, in case the role of 'the people' in the furtherance of progress or social democracy. Historians in the past quarter-century have displayed growing interest in how British social democrats, as well as liberals and Conservatives, responded to the challenges of the arrival of democracy in 1918. For the historian, this meeting between social democracy and the people fascinates as an ongoing, evolving encounter between political ideas and idealism on the one hand, and the realities of the human condition on the other. Social democracy at its best sought a middle way between the two, in which good character and improved social environment, individual endeavour and state support were harmonized. An important indicator of when social democrats have struggled in their relationship with the people is their tendency to reduce politics to supposedly malign or betraying leaders.
Social democracy's often diffuse societal, intellectual and cultural influences have exceeded and outlasted Labour's direct electoral success. This book focuses questions relating to the popular values, mindsets and sense of citizenship needed to further social democracy on that deeper enterprise of this book. It reflects on the 'big picture' of social democracy and progressivism, both historical and contemporary. Part I takes the historical bird's eye view, exploring social democratic and liberal dilemmas that both pervaded the twentieth century and remain very much alive today. It suggests that scholars and political analysts tend to under-play the extent to which progressivism and the voters have managed to operate in constructive harmony. Tracing new and social liberalism's, distinctive offer of a fusion between social interdependence and individualism, the volume assesses the failure of this British liberalism to become the over-arching driver of politics. The Scottish secession from the United Kingdom in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum is also discussed. Part II takes stock of the critical scrutiny, discussing 'Western' democracies alongside the dominance and the extensive body of thought from David Marquand on citizenship, and especially Marquand's civic republican vision. Part III seeks to apply Marquand's search for the 'principled society', discusses social and psychological concept of 'neighbourliness', and examines the public good less as a fixed entity. Finally, the significance of Christopher Addison and his notions on the democratic socialism and liberal progressive traditions, and pluralism are discussed.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the many-sided relationship between social democracy and 'the people' in Britain. It discusses the extensive body of thought from David Marquand on citizenship, and especially Marquand's civic republican vision for a far more energised and engaged public in Britain. The book explores the historical and political implications of the social and psychological concept of 'neighbourliness', especially as it played out in that pivotal moment of apparent social democratic ascendancy, the 1940s, and the 'People's War'. It argues that empowerment, equity and engagement are three lodestars for the re-making of social democratic citizenship and illustrates how new voices and venues are emerging in pursuit of more auspiciously deployed governing institutions and public policies. The issue of the people, the citizenry, the voters has long been a perplexing one for social democrats.
David Marquand's thinking on pluralism cuts across three interconnected realms, namely: politics and government, social and cultural contexts, and the economic arena. This chapter argues that Marquandism withstands critical scrutiny given its overriding emphasis on pluralism and republicanism as two crucial, consolidating elements that must be incorporated into any kind of democratic political system worth having. It discusses the main elements of pluralism and republicanism as Marquand sees them and examines how pluralism and republicanism both inform Marquand's perspective on the 'social' in social democracy and, finally, on the essence of democracy itself. In contrast with Marquand's priority placed upon pluralism, which points to complex changes in the governance of the United Kingdom, Marquand's emphasis on democratic republicanism is mainly about the people. The premium Marquand places, then, on a pluralist, republican social democracy serves as the unifying thread in his political thinking.