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Three fallacies in the essentialist interpretation of the political thought of R.H.Tawney

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tim Gray



This article disputes three positions entrenched in the essentialist interpretation of R. H. Tawney's political thought. First, it contests the notion that Tawney's work is characterized by an overwhelming consistency. Whilst the Tawney canon displays a thematic persistence, a chronological analysis demonstrates that he significantly altered his core political concepts. Second, the article asserts that the prevailing consensus amongst commentators that Tawney's politics is largely a derivative of his religion is one-dimensional, ignoring the extent to which Tawney's politics departed from its Christian foundations. Both of these mistaken notions—overwhelming consistency and derivation from religion—are exemplified in the third erroneous position adopted by commentators—the elevation of Tawney's private diaries (known as the Commonplace Book) to a key role in setting the seal on his subsequent political thought. By exposing these fallacies, the article seeks a more authentic interpretation of Tawney's political thought.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Armstrong G, Gray T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Political Ideologies

Year: 2010

Volume: 15

Issue: 2

Pages: 161-174

Print publication date: 01/06/2010

Date deposited: 12/10/2010

ISSN (print): 1356-9317

ISSN (electronic): 1469-9613

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13569317.2010.482373


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