Equality and the British Left

A study in progressive political thought, 1900–64

Author: Ben Jackson

The demand for equality was at the heart of the politics of the Left in the twentieth century, but what did theorists and politicians on the British Left mean when they said they were committed to ‘equality’? How did they argue for a more egalitarian society? Which policies did they think could best advance their egalitarian ideals? This book provides comprehensive answers to these questions. It charts debates about equality from the progressive liberalism and socialism of the early twentieth century to the arrival of the New Left and revisionist social democracy in the 1950s. Along the way, the book examines and reassesses the egalitarian political thought of many significant figures in the history of the British Left, including L. T. Hobhouse, R. H. Tawney and Anthony Crosland. It demonstrates that the British Left has historically been distinguished from its ideological competitors on the centre and the right by a commitment to a demanding form of economic egalitarianism. The book shows that this egalitarianism has come to be neglected or caricatured by politicians and scholars alike, and is more surprising and sophisticated than is often imagined.

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