Ian Birchall Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ian H. Birchall

England Swings

(Spring 1966)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.24, Spring 1966, p.34.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Politics in England
Richard Rose
Faber, 30s

In this book Rose claims to give a ‘sociological’ analysis of political structures ana attitudes in modern Britain. What we get is a string of assertions, platitudinous or impressionistic about the British (ourselves?), curranted with some quite useful statistical material, mainly taken from such works as Almond and Verba’s The Civic Culture.

Rose’s definition of politics is a narrow one; he accepts on its face value the survey finding that 85 per cent of the population are not ‘very interested’ in politics. He is interested in form rather than content; thus the same paragraph on pressure groups can compare the National Union of Mineworkers and the Automobile Association. CND rates a few bewildered mentions; the relation of the Bomb to the political power structure is not within Rose’s compass. He is struck by the fact that half the electorate read pro-Labour papers – but not by the fact that virtually the whole press is anti-trade-union. The relation of economics to politics is summed up in the inane sentence: ‘Money does not have the same weight in politics as in business, because though it may purchase goods in business, it cannot be used in politics to purchase votes’ (p.110).

As a result, Rose is impressed above all by the degree of consensus in British society. ‘Wildcat strikes’ get one brief mention. (Rose doesn’t want a demarcation dispute with the industrial sociologists.) Society is stable because of the ‘general socialisation process.’ Thus ‘for the Etonian, the goal may be going into politics; for a boy at a local secondary modern school, becoming an apprentice engineer in a motorcar factory. Such individuals do not compete with one another for advancement in society; they do not meet’ (p.123). Except in the non-political struggle for wages.

Some day soon Rose’s cardboard model of England is going to explode in his face.

Ian Birchall Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 14.5.2008