This book is an attempt to take stock of how some of the British Labour Party's leading interpreters have analysed their subject, deriving as they do from contrasting political, theoretical, disciplinary and methodological backgrounds. It explores their often-hidden assumptions and subjects them to critical evaluation. The book outlines five strategies such as materialist; ideational; electoral; institutional; and synthetic strategies. Materialist, ideational and electoral explanatory strategies account for Labour's ideological trajectory in factors exogenous to the party. The 'new political history' is useful in understanding Labour within a less reductive framework than either the 'high' or 'from below' approaches and in more novel terms than the Left-Right positions adopted within Labour. The book assesses the contribution made to analysis of the Labour Party and labour history by thinkers of the British New Left. New Left critiques of labourism in fact represented and continued a strand of Marxist thinking on the party that can be traced back to its inception. If Ralph Miliband's role in relation to 'Bennism' is considered in comparison to his earlier attitudes, some striking points emerge about the interaction between the analytical and subjective aspects in his interpretive framework. Miliband tried to suggest that the downfall of communism was advantageous for the Left, given the extent to which the Soviet regimes had long embarrassed Western socialists such as himself. The Nairn-Anderson theses represented an ambitious attempt to pioneer a distinctive analysis of British capitalist development, its state, society and class structure.
), set out with the bold aim of transforming the
intellectual culture of Britain, which they viewed as a pre-requisite of any real
socialist advance, by introducing and applying Marxist thought drawn mainly
from continental Europe. The Nairn–Anderson theses thus represented an ambitious attempt to pioneer a distinctive analysis of Britishcapitalistdevelopment, its
state, society and class structure.
Despite a number of shortcomings, some justly identified by E. P. Thompson in
his excoriating and famous 1965 attack, what was distinctive and valuable about
capitalistdevelopment. The British state was marked by its early industrialisation, which provided initial first-mover advantages, but left it with an archaic class structure (exemplified by the House of Lords and constitutional monarchy) and a tendency to externalise economic weaknesses through empire and then, to a lesser extent, Europe. Whereas other European national states such as Germany had their nineteenth-century nationalist moments, which led to formal constitutions and rapid state-led development, the British Isles had the ultimately futile Chartist movement
-war nationalisation in its faith in state intervention to improve lives. Yet it fell into one of the traps laid out in the Introduction: the ‘pendulum’ view of Britishcapitalistdevelopment, which can only account for the state and not the nation part of the nation-state. Corbyn supporters were never comfortable even exploring the idea of nation-building, let alone considering it as an option (e.g. the furore caused by Corbyn's call for ‘British jobs for British workers’). Yet class-based and justice-based mobilisation seemed like an electoral dead end. Despite dire predictions
liberal capitalist systems crash, the consequent harm generates a backlash for greater protection. And, vice versa, the problems of state-led order seem best fixed by free markets. Crises are thus the moments of ‘great transformation’ in state-market relations, a term that invokes Karl Polanyi's masterful The Great Transformation .
This generates a historical narrative of Britishcapitalistdevelopment based on a number of great transformations. The story