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The Labour Party and Mr Keynes in the 1930s: a partial Keynesian revolution without Keynes

Barberis, Peter (2006) The Labour Party and Mr Keynes in the 1930s: a partial Keynesian revolution without Keynes. Labour history review, 71 (2). pp. 145-166. ISSN 0961-5652

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Abstract

To whatever extent the Labour Party adopted Keynesian economic policies before the Second World War it is easy to assume that Keynes and his ideas provided the benchmark — especially for reformers, perhaps also those of more traditionalist persuasion. Yet this paper shows how little Keynes featured in Labour's deliberations during the 1930s. It does so chiefly by an examination of public debates at annual party conferences and by analyses of the works of certain figures often thought to have engaged with Keynesian ideas before the war — both among the leading lights and the up and coming generation. Labour did not so much openly accept or reject Keynes as to proceed with precious little acknowledgement — even when the party or elements within it did tread a recognisably Keynesian path. Only to a limited extent can this relative neglect be explained by Keynes' own bearing towards Labour. Much more does it tell us about the Labour Party. The concluding section of the paper considers some possible explanations.

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