Labour History Review

Labour Party Revisionism and Public Expenditure: Divisions of Social Democratic Political Economy in the 1970s

Labour History Review (2005), 70, (3), 253–273.

Abstract

This article utilizes themes, issues and debates of economic decline, economic crisis and public expenditure in the Labour Party in the 1970s to analyse the emerging divisions of Labour Party revisionism over the key tools and implied goals of traditional social democratic political economy. It argues that, alongside similar divisions over the questions of European membership and industrial relations and trade union reform, diverging revisionist attitudes to the problems and future direction of social democratic political economy in the 1970s witnessed the emergence and increasing marginalization of a distinct 'liberal' revisionist strand of the parliamentary Labour right. This emerging strand of revisionist thought was more willing to reconsider the intrinsic limitations of traditional social democratic political economy in the adverse economic conditions of the 1970s, and even to reconceptualize the balance and priorities of its guiding principles in the direction of a greater emphasis on individual freedom. Divisions over a critical range of policy issues revealed underlying ideological differences over the relative balance between, and priority of, principles of equality and liberty in revisionist social democratic thought and practice, and, possessed important implications for the unity and cohesion of the parliamentary Labour right in the party political context of the 1970s and for the future of the Labour Party and British social democracy itself.

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Author details

Meredith, Stephen