British socialism and the emotions of revolution, 1884-1926

Carey, Michael Stephen (2018) British socialism and the emotions of revolution, 1884-1926. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Spurred by recent developments in the history of emotions, this thesis looks at the place of emotion and irrationality in socialist political philosophy. I give particular attention to the shifting ways that socialists depicted the emotions of revolution. I argue that socialists had a complicated understanding of human nature, drawing on various philosophical discourses and scientific theories to grasp the ‘irrational’ and to relate it to the socialist project.

Building on philosophies of ‘the passions’ developed by G.W.F. Hegel and Charles Fourier, Karl Marx sought to grasp the multi-faceted emotional forces of human nature and critique the primacy of acquisitiveness in liberal thought. During the British ‘socialist revival’ of the 1880s and 1890s, theorists like William Morris and E. Belfort Bax sought to follow Marx’s critique of self-interest. They pushed the passion known as ‘sympathy’, ‘solidarity’ or ‘fellowship’ to the fore as an integral and universal source of socialist feeling, which drove the struggle against inhuman conditions of late-Victorian capitalism. Darwinian thinking about the instincts and emotions challenged this ethical conception of ‘the passions’, and socialists sought to reframe the critique of capitalism around biological categories. They emphasised such concepts as the ‘social instinct’ of Karl Pearson and William Trotter’s ‘herd instinct’ to account for the natural need for sociability and the damaging artificiality of economic egoism.

The industrial ‘Great Unrest’ of 1910-14, the First World War, and the Russian Revolution of 1917 spurred socialists to an examination of the emotions driving struggle between classes and nations. In the years after the Russian Revolution, the theories of Leninism, instinct theory, and Freudian psychoanalysis shared a moment of intense interest among British socialists. Both opponents of the Bolshevik regime like Bertrand Russell, and defenders of the Soviet state in the new Communist Party of Great Britain like Cedar and Eden Paul, drew on the so-called New Psychology to understand the meaning of 1917, to predict the direction of the revolution, and to inform their own approaches to socialism.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Baron, Nick
Badcock, Sarah
Rogatchevskaia, Katya
Keywords: British socialism, communism, history of emotions, psychology, political philosophy, Russian Revolution
Subjects: H Social sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
J Political science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 49681
Depositing User: Carey, Michael
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2018 04:40

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