An exceptional comrade?
The Nairn–Anderson interpretation
in Interpreting the Labour Party

This chapter has outlined mainly Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson's account of Labour Party politics. It focuses on a distinct aspect of their joint endeavour, the contrast between British social democrats and their European counterparts. The chapter outlines the central features of Nairn's argument, leaning heavily on his original two-part article. It assesses as to where the two-part article fits with the work not only of his collaborator Anderson, but that of other leading figures on the New Left, especially Ralph Miliband. The chapter addresses the extent to which Nairn's approach can be reconciled with the often-made claim that Labour sought to learn from Swedish social democrats during the 1950s and 1960s. Nairn's emphasis on the exceptional character of British reformism provides the basis for a discussion of a feature of Labour's politics that has been often overlooked by academics: the party's insularity.

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Interpreting the Labour Party

Approaches to Labour politics and history

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