C.B. Macpherson

C.B. Macpherson: Dilemmas of Liberalism and Socialism

William Leiss
C. B. Macpherson
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    C.B. Macpherson
    Book Description:

    Focusing on two key themes - property and the state - Leiss tracks Macpherson's analysis of the contradictions of liberal-democracy through all of his writings, beginning with his 1935 M.A. thesis supervised by Harold Laski at LSE. His concluding chapter critically examines the core of Macpherson's political philosophy - the distinction between extractive and developmental powers - against the background of social change in the democracies of the West in the period since the end of the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7535-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface 2009
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-10)
  5. 1 Scope of the Work
    (pp. 11-19)

    All political theorists are Utopians, more or less. Few among Plato’s successors could resist being seduced by his bold scheme, but some were more willing than others to display their infatuation. Thus there have been two basic forms of utopianism over the centuries, one in which a plan for a better world was proclaimed aloud and another, more reticent but not necessarily less committed, in which discreet allusions to the need for changing the world were embedded in the critique of existing conditions.

    C. B. Macpherson was a political theorist of the latter sort. With extraordinary consistency and tenacity throughout...

  6. 2 Formation: 1930 to 1955
    (pp. 20-73)

    Crawford Brough Macpherson’s life spanned a period of extraordinary social change. He began his university training within months of the stock-market debacle in 1929 and finished that training while the Great Depression persisted. He took up professional writing at a time when the still vibrant ideological currents inherited from the nineteenth century — capitalism versus socialism and communism — had been amplified by the special circumstances of the day: the long economic crisis of capitalist nations, the sporadic militancy of working-class organizations, the rise of European fascism, and the hopes and illusions bound with the fate of the Soviet Union. He was...

  7. 3 Maturity: 1955 to 1985
    (pp. 74-111)

    Throughout his formative period, Macpherson structured the various issues in political theory and practice with which he dealt largely in terms of an opposition: capitalismversussocialism. Whether the matter at hand was trade union practices or the theory of property, social credit politics or the fate of liberalism, each illustrated for him the continued viability of the one overriding set of options that had been posed in the mid-nineteenthcentury and had been forcefully posited anew for his generation by a series of fateful events — the Bolshevik seizure of power in the Soviet Union, worldwide economic crisis, and the rise...

  8. 4 Canada as a Quasi-Market Society
    (pp. 112-142)

    There is no doubt that from first to last C. B. Macpherson’s studies of political theory and practice carried a pragmatic intent: to display the shortcomings of the market-dominated society in which he lived and to show the way to a better one. The foregoing discussion also showed that his dual commitment as scholar-protagonist compelled him to express his advocacy in and through the craft of academic scholarship. This meant that he fully accepted the scholar’s responsibility in approaching historical sources, namely that interpretation of the past must be grounded in the mustering of textual evidence, the fair consideration of...

  9. Epilogue: An Appreciation
    (pp. 143-146)

    At the time when he accepted his first university teaching appointment at the age of twenty-four, C. B. Macpherson had settled upon his vocation, his ideological standpoint, and his mission. So far as the first-mentioned is concerned, there is no evidence that he ever considered any other path for himself save that of a university teacher and an author of scholarly publications. So far as his political ideology is concerned, every page of his master’s thesis shows his passionate commitment to socialism, in a form defined essentially by the nineteenth-century European working class movement; that commitment stayed with him undiminished...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 147-149)
    (pp. 150-152)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 153-166)