Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2004), 86, (1), 218–220.


I Labour History Number 86 May 2004 and friends remain prominent on the Left. Newman does not ignore Miliband's subjectivity, but he treats it more fully for the early life than the later. Of course, Newman does not claim to have written 'a biography', but nonetheless, for this reader, the absence of an explicitly biographical argument, to integrate the book's intellectual, political and personal strands, is a teasing absence. Secondly, I think that what Newman did set out to do - to place Miliband's thought in the context of his project to create an independent form of socialism - needs a theoretical basis, particularly when the project ran into difficulties in the 80s and later. Without such a theory, Newman's overall assessment of Miliband's significance falls back on an analysis of his thought. The book's final chapter, 'Ralph Miliband Today', achieves its purpose in showing how the resonance of his writing, its lucidity, empirical basis, and refusal of dogma, as well as its political themes and moral concerns, are of enduring importance. But it makes us forget that his project failed. In fact, Newman's book can be read as an account of the difficulties of the socialist intelligentsia in the era of the decline of the labour intellectual. Miliband's view that radical students, feminists, anti-war activists and environmentalists should throw in their lot with the labour movement was never going to work. Similarly, his own on-again, off-again relationship with the Left of the Labour Party is instructive, as is his complete failure to convince his comrades that a new party of socialists in the labour movement was possible. His Marxist background led him to identify with 'working-class' and party-centred action, but as a model of intellectual work it deflected his attention from the changes in class, culture, and politics of his lifetime. As a result of these changes, there was no longer any labour alternative public sphere of consequence, no room for the kind of intellectual role he desired. A theory of intellectuals and publics would have helped to bring these elements of Miliband's world into the picture. The achievements of Newman's book, however, are many. It is detailed, reliable, sympathetic and moving. Newman, whose previous books include studies of Harold Laski and John Strachey, is one of the few serious intellectual historians of the Left, and this book deserves to be a standard reference for many years. University of Sydney TERRY IRVING Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Coll?ge de France, 1975 76, Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books, London, 2003. pp. 310. $32.95 paperback. Given his tendency to opaque deliberation, and alleged scorn, at least in the eyes of his critics, for the serious study of the past, Michel Foucault would surely have felt ambiguous about the preservation of his January-March 1976 Coll?ge de France lecture series, Society Must Be Defended, as an historical artefact. Or perhaps not? Society Must Be Defended indicates that Foucault approached his lectures thoughtfully, and with attention to detail; he fretted over their reception. Addressed, like all lectures from the professors of the prestigious Coll?ge, to an audience of anyone who wandered off the Paris streets and cared to hear them, Foucault's lectures presented findings from research conducted in the previous year. As reprinted in this Penguin

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Author details

Hearn, Mark

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