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A posthumous collection of 12 essays from R.H. Tawney, the noted English apostle of democratic socialism, all of which add nothing new, neither to the man nor to his tradition of a sort of genteel ruthlessness in economic and political matters which has so characterized Anglo-American leftist thought over the last fifty years or so. However, evident everywhere is the Tawney touch: spotless scholarship, a stern and sensible appreciation of the facts of history, and a genuine commitment to the humanitarian ideals of what in his heyday was known as radicalism and what is now called- though not always honorably- the Welfare State. ""The question for Socialists,"" notes Tawney, ""is not really whether the state owns and controls the means of production. It is also, and even more important who owns and controls the state."" Thus he disavows the totalitarian temper just as much as he inveighs against the idolatry of money and success. Indeed for him, in a curious passage, ""Communist social theory and American economic practice agree in repudiating"" egalitarianism. Generalizations and/or pieties such as these spangle the text. There are papers on the closed-system of British education, on trade unionism, nationalization of industries, thoughtful estimates of Ruskin, Owen and Lovetta and a brilliant concluding piece, remarkable in its range, on the interplay between works of art and la vie quotidianne. A lot has happened, nevertheless,- namely, the non-ideological character of technological progression and efficiency- since the Tawney ethic was formed; and that which has happened is absent here.

Publisher: Pantheon