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Psychological SocialismThe Labour Party and Qualities of Mind and Character, 1931 to the Present$
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Jeremy Nuttall

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780719071645

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719071645.001.0001

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(p.29) 2 1931–1951
Psychological Socialism

Jeremy Nuttall

Manchester University Press

In David Marquand's alternating chronology, the governments of Clement Attlee marked a moralist-activist collectivist phase. Yet, this was also a transition stage in the Labour Party, and indeed in the history of Britain. Labour could also be an ally of ‘mental improvement’. First, historiographical romanticisation of the ‘moral’ politics of liberalism masks the limits to its egalitarianism. This chapter charts the attitude of the Labour Party towards the idea of intellectual and moral improvement between 1931 and 1951. It calls for greater long-term perspective in chronologies of ‘progress’, especially ‘mental progress’ in Britain, stressing the unrealistic expectations of such progress by both historians and contemporary Labour figures. It argues that Labour itself in this period should be seen in terms of its own inexperience, as a party groping for an understanding of what a governing mentality or psychology entailed. It also places the development of the Labour Party, socialism, democracy, and the minds of the British people in a long historical context.

Keywords:   Labour Party, Britain, mental progress, psychology, socialism, democracy, liberalism, egalitarianism, moral improvement, Clement Attlee

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