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International Socialism, Summer 1965


David Breen

Half Light on Britain


From International Socialism, No.21, Summer 1965, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Anatomy of Britain Today
Anthony Sampson
Hodder & Stoughton, 42s.

The Split Society
Nicholas Davenport
Victor Gollancz, 25s.

One of the results of British capitalism’s relatively poor performance in the international League is a spate of self-analysis and introspection. Starting with Andrew Shonfield’s British Economic Policy Since the War, first published in 1958, a number of unacademic economists and journalists have begun to explore the working of the economy and its rulers. They start with a shared dissatisfaction at the country’s economic growth; they share a zeal for modernisation, efficiency and professionalism; they are driven to attack the inherited, unearned incumbencies of power, and the flaunting of privilege and class; they support industry and industrialists against finance and the City; and they see in radical reform the salvation of British capitalism.

Both Davenport (Spectator) and Sampson (Observer) write in this tradition. For both, our social and economic stagnation derives from wrong-headed policy; wrong-headedness from the tribal taboos of the Establishment; and the Establishment from Eton. Davenport, the more interesting by far, sees in class division the ultimate product of the Establishment’s insensitivity and narrow defence of privilege. Sampson, gossipy and eclectic, merely states the general theme. Neither support it too thoroughly; but both provide in passing such a wealth of material – quantitative in Davenport’s case, descriptive in Sampson’s, racily presented in both – that makes them required reading for anyone embarking on a Discovery of Britain.

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