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5 June 1986
... servants, household dependents or junior kin come to occupy the novel role of subjects, whether voluntarily or not. Similarly, the diffusion of capitalism – by which I mean the employment of wage-labourers by private owners of the means of production in order to market the goods thereby produced for profit – has followed no uniform sequence and come about, where it has, in very different ...


W.G. Runciman: Serious Money

3 September 1987
... The play Serious Money, now transferred from the Royal Court to the West End, is a disappointment. It is neither farce nor satire, only caricature. The City is a splendid target for mockery, but loud doggerel and insistent overacting are no substitute for wit. The play may well enjoy a steady run simply because its subject is topical and its script full of four-letter words. But if you want to indulge ...


W.G. Runciman: 1920s v. 1980s

17 March 1988
... negotiations over spheres of influence in Africa and the Near East, and the impassioned debates over the military preparedness necessary to preserve world peace by demonstrating the willingness to wage a European war? But again, I wonder. The Trident missiles are our Dreadnoughts, and, as Peter Jenkins well describes, Mrs Thatcher has managed to get herself treated by the super-powers as a serious ...

Latent Discontent

W.G. Runciman

11 June 1992
Solidarity and Schism: ‘The Problem of Disorder’ in Durkheimian and Marxist Sociology 
by David Lockwood.
Oxford, 433 pp., £48, March 1992, 0 19 827717 2
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... David Lockwood is the sociologist’s sociologist in the same way that Ken Rosewall used to be the tennis player’s tennis player: he’s the one the other pros turn out to watch. But you need to know the fixture list. To switch to an older metaphor, he is apt not only to hide his light under a bushel but to hide the bushel as well. He never writes book reviews or goes on television or airs his views ...

What next?

W.G. Runciman

27 October 1988
Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History 
by Ernest Gellner.
Collins, 288 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 00 217178 3
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... If human history does, indeed, have a structure, it is, as Professor Gellner emphasises, discernible only with hindsight. The path which has led, in his words, ‘from the cosy social cocoon of early man to the expanding, cognitively powerful, and socially disconnected world of modern man’ was not merely invisible to those who were treading it: it was inconceivable. The two prodigious transformations ...
24 May 1990
The Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain 1880-1950 
by Ross McKibbin.
Oxford, 308 pp., £35, April 1990, 0 19 822160 6
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... In 1984, Ross McKibbin published an article in the English Historical Review called ‘Why was there no Marxism in Great Britain?’ His choice of title was a deliberate invocation of the celebrated essay which Werner Sombart published in 1906 under the title Why is there no socialism in the United States? It does not, of course, mean literally what it says. There was, and still is, a far from total ...

Sing, Prance, Ruffle, Bellow, Bristle and Ooze

Armand Marie Leroi: Social Selection

17 September 1998
The Handicap Principle 
by Amotz Zahavi and Avishag Zahavi.
Oxford, 286 pp., £18.99, October 1997, 0 19 510035 2
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The Social Animal 
by W.G. Runciman.
HarperCollins, 230 pp., £14.99, February 1998, 0 00 255862 9
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... of Economics has been holding a seminar series, or rather a salon, snappily titled Darwin@LSE. These seminars are always invigorating, and never more so than one evening this February when W.G.Runciman urged the necessity of refounding sociology along Darwinian lines. Weary of such pronouncements though they might be, even the most sceptical sociologists could not have failed to realise that here ...
28 June 1990
Confessions of a Reluctant Theorist 
by W.G. Runciman.
Harvester, 253 pp., £30, April 1990, 0 7450 0484 9
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... still seemed to lack a clear-cut identity in Britain, yet, out of antediluvian debate, was making advances that would influence the course of social science around the world. In this milieu, W. G. Runciman was a seminal figure, who appeared as puzzling to the uninitiated as the discipline he studied. He was an internationally-known sociologist at a university that apparently had no department of ...


W.G. Runciman: Reflections on Tawney

4 August 1988
... I began this series of daries with some reflections prompted by a re-reading of Halévy’s volumes on England from 1895 to 1914, and I propose now to end it with some reflections prompted by a re-reading of Tawney’s Equality. If the conclusion which again suggests itself is plus ça change, that is not because there have not been changes in our society which neither Halévy, Tawney nor anybody else ...

Why are we here?

W.G. Runciman: The Biology of Belief

7 February 2002
Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors 
by Pascal Boyer.
Heinemann, 430 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 434 00843 5
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... Any argument about religion, whether conducted in the seminar room or the saloon bar, is likely to hit the buffers not just because people hold different religious beliefs but because they disagree about what should or should not be counted as an instance of religion in the first place. Nobody will query the inclusion of what goes on at High Mass in Notre Dame or on the prayer-mats of the Islamic faithful ...


W.G. Runciman

20 October 1983
Inside the Inner City 
by Paul Harrison.
Pelican, 444 pp., £3.95, August 1983, 9780140224191
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Brighton on the Rocks: Monetarism and the Local State 
Queens Park Rates Book Group, 192 pp., £3.95, May 1983, 0 904733 08 4Show More
The Wealth Report 
edited by Frank Field.
Routledge, 164 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 7100 9452 3
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... Field’s second Wealth Report – will in due time increase the incomes of the poor. Not even the hardest-hitting indictment of restrictive fiscal policies will move those for whom the defeat of wage-fuelled inflation is the overriding priority in the quest for the grail of sustained real economic growth. Like Harrison’s epigraphs, the QueenSpark Rates Book Group’s invocation of General ...

Henry and Caroline

W.G. Runciman

1 April 1983
The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook: The First Guide to What Really Matters in Life 
by Ann Barr and Peter York.
Ebury, 160 pp., £4.95, October 1982, 0 85223 236 5
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... Anthropological method, as classically practised by Malinowski among the Trobriand Islanders, depends in the first instance on patient scrutiny of the details of the daily life of the community under study. But it depends also on the detection in, or behind, those details of what Malinowski himself called ‘the natives’ Weltanschauung’ – that is, the whole unspoken complex of myths, prejudices ...
17 December 1981
The Forward March of Labour Halted? 
by Eric Hobsbawm, Ken Gill and Tony Benn.
Verso, 182 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 86091 041 5
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... to vote for parties of the Right; the location of underprivilege in groups and categories of society not definable in class terms; the persistent lack of trade-union solidarity; the effects of wage-inflation on real incomes; the vulnerability of the high-cost industrial economies to competition from low-cost, newly-industrialising ones – all these things have made it increasingly difficult ...

Grand Theories

W.G. Runciman

17 October 1985
The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences 
edited by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £17.50, July 1985, 0 521 26692 0
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by Erik Olin Wright.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, September 1985, 0 86091 104 7
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Powers and Liberties: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West 
by John Hall.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £19.50, September 1985, 0 631 14542 7
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... What is a ‘Grand’ as opposed to a ‘General’ theory, in the human sciences or anywhere else? Nobody talks about Keynes’s Grand Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, any more than they do about Einstein’s Grand Theory of Relativity. If not frankly pejorative, the term is at best ironic, implying a loftiness of tone, an inflation of aim, and a pretentiousness of content which no serious ...


W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism

5 May 1988
... than to find Aneurin Bevan willing (as I have just learned from John Campbell’s Nye Bevan and the Mirage of British Socialism) to see force used in 1948 against dockers seeking to defy Cripps’s wage freeze? Even the most right-wing employer cannot risk industrial relations being made unworkable. Even the most left-wing cabinet minister cannot risk the Government’s authority being made ...

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