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Reading: A Gradualist Approach to Criminality: Early British Socialists, Utopia and Crime

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A Gradualist Approach to Criminality: Early British Socialists, Utopia and Crime

Author:

Max Hodgson

Department of History, University of Reading, UK
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Abstract

The attitudes of early British socialists to criminality are a thoroughly under-researched area of historical scholarship. This paper draws on the utopian ideas of Robert Owen, William Morris, H. G. Wells, Robert Blatchford, Edward Carpenter and Ramsay MacDonald as a vehicle for investigating the attitudes of mainstream fin de siècle British socialists to crime, punishment and penal reform. Placing these figures and their utopias along a spectrum that sees radical ‘Arcadian’ socialists on the far left, ‘technological’ socialists on the far right, and moderate socialists occupying the middle ground, it presents two principal findings. First it demonstrates how crime was predicted by most of the left to decrease to a minimum level under socialism. ‘Arcadians’, ‘technological’ and moderate socialists invoked different methods in this pursuit, but each were in essence grappling with the same broader issue of the relationship of the individual to the state under socialism. Secondly, examining the multifaceted ideological heritage of the British left in relation to their approaches to crime, it is argued that, despite the left’s gradualist philosophy, their own attitudes to criminality actually closely reflected utopian conceptions. Examination of these issues offers an important opportunity to re-evaluate the evolution of British socialist thought.

How to Cite: Hodgson, M., 2015. A Gradualist Approach to Criminality: Early British Socialists, Utopia and Crime. SHARE: Studies In History, Archaeology, Religion And Conservation, 2(1), pp.48–71. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/share.7
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Published on 25 Dec 2015.
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