Moral Rejection

LRB · Eric Hobsbawm: C (for Crisis)

Certainly, the crisis produced agreement among the articulate classes that the system couldn’t go on as before, either because of the basic flaws of capitalism or because of ‘The End of Laissez-Faire’ announced by Keynes in 1926, but discussions on the future shape of the economy, whether socialist or governed by a reformed, more interventionist and ‘planned’ capitalism, were strictly confined to minorities: the first of up to half a million in and around the labour movement, the second probably of a few hundred of what Gramsci would have called the ‘organic intellectuals’ of the British ruling class. However, memory suggests that Overy is right in thinking that the most widespread reaction to the troubles of the economy among the king’s non-writing subjects, outside the new wastelands of the old industrial regions, was not so much the feeling ‘that capitalism did not work, but that it should not work the way it did’. And insofar as ‘socialism’ reached beyond the activists into the 29 per cent of the British electorate which voted for the Labour Party at the peak of its interwar success, it was the result of a moral rejection of capitalism rather than a specific image of the future society.

The book looks good.

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