Nuttall, Jeremy
August 2003
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Aug2003, Vol. 68 Issue 2, p235
Academic Journal
Given the quality of Evan Durbin's magnum opus, The Politics of Democratic Socialism (1940), the historiographical attention to him has been slight, and focused primarily on his economic writings. This article explores his broader intellectual and political approach, focusing on three themes. First, it traces his intellectual relationships, exploring his exchanges of ideas over the importance of responsible political behaviour with his MacDonaldite friend, Reg Bassett, suggesting that he had a more optimistic view of the reforming potential of being 'reasonable' than his LSE colleague Harold Laski, whilst sharing some of his tough-minded realism as to a need to deal in the politics of power, and comparing him with another, later nonconformist revisionist, Tony Crosland. Secondly, the article examines Durbin's desire to 'emotionally educate' the citizenry, to improve minds as well as material well-being, an objective rarely explored by Labour Party historians. Thirdly, it suggests that much of Durbin's distinctiveness lies in his synthesizing qualities, his juggling of goods which have not always appeared natural bedfellows: radicalism and moderation; the intellectual and politics; the freer raising of children and a willingness to use force in international affairs. Whilst political history is often narrated in terms of 'depth' of ideological commitment, whether to equality or the free market, an examination of Durbin emphasizes the importance of 'breadth'.


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