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Approaches to Labour politics and history

This book is an attempt to take stock of how some of the British Labour Party's leading interpreters have analysed their subject, deriving as they do from contrasting political, theoretical, disciplinary and methodological backgrounds. It explores their often-hidden assumptions and subjects them to critical evaluation. The book outlines five strategies such as materialist; ideational; electoral; institutional; and synthetic strategies. Materialist, ideational and electoral explanatory strategies account for Labour's ideological trajectory in factors exogenous to the party. The 'new political history' is useful in understanding Labour within a less reductive framework than either the 'high' or 'from below' approaches and in more novel terms than the Left-Right positions adopted within Labour. The book assesses the contribution made to analysis of the Labour Party and labour history by thinkers of the British New Left. New Left critiques of labourism in fact represented and continued a strand of Marxist thinking on the party that can be traced back to its inception. If Ralph Miliband's role in relation to 'Bennism' is considered in comparison to his earlier attitudes, some striking points emerge about the interaction between the analytical and subjective aspects in his interpretive framework. Miliband tried to suggest that the downfall of communism was advantageous for the Left, given the extent to which the Soviet regimes had long embarrassed Western socialists such as himself. The Nairn-Anderson theses represented an ambitious attempt to pioneer a distinctive analysis of British capitalist development, its state, society and class structure.

’s New Atlantis. Before so doing, and given that a discussion of some contemporary critical trends and debates has been taken to frame an Price_09_Ch9 183 14/10/02, 9:50 am 184 Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis approach to Bacon’s text, it is perhaps worth making a – necessarily very brief – comment on the question of historical difference and relationship that inevitably surrounds any such project of re-reading. While it is important not to repeat the kind of ‘reflectionism’ that Robert Young associates with some cultural materialist strategies of reading, whereby

in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis

. The five strategies are assessed, and the chapter concludes by outlining an alternative model of Labour’s ideological dynamics that might be usefully applied to the study of the New Labour. Outlines of explanatory strategies Materialist strategies The first set of explanatory strategies proposes that Labour’s ideological shifts are a product of economic and social determinants. Here three main strands of analysis emerge. The first strand focuses on the pressure of capitalist interests. Claims that Labour’s ideological movements are responses to the structural power

in Interpreting the Labour Party