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The Victorian Legacy in Political Thought


Edited By Catherine Marshall and Stéphane Guy

The Victorian era was one that teemed with multitudinous and sometimes opposing visions of polity yet rarely questioned the very existence of the State. What might be called the pragmatism of the elite gave rise to a form of democratic compromise, allowing the growth of political ideas that may still be found in contemporary political thought.
Have reformist, socialist, liberal or utilitarian ideas avoided the dogmatism of twentieth century politics or paved the way to other forms of ideology? To what extent has the organization or gradual obliteration of the State been influenced by evolutionary theories, the quest for effective government and expertise or, more generally, refusal of the past? What was the impact of Victorian thinkers and ideas on the mutation of contemporary political ideas? Have we reached a post-Victorian period or are we still using a Victorian rhetoric as well as Victorian theories? Have we not, also, reached a stage in which retrieving some of those ideas might help to solve some of our contemporary political problems? The essays presented in this book all attempt to answer some of these questions and try to show how nineteenth century thought and culture have shaped British modern political debate and, for some, still continue to do so. It will prove useful to academics and the general public interested in contemporary politics as well as the history of ideas and political philosophy.
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Margaret Thatcher and Conservative Feminism – A Rehabilitation of Victorian Values: Françoise Orazi



Margaret Thatcher and Conservative Feminism – A Rehabilitation of Victorian Values

Although Margaret Thatcher left power more than twenty years ago, there is a strong case for accepting to regard her as a contemporary, inasmuch as she embodies the break with the postwar world characterized internationally by the division into two geopolitical and ideological blocks, and, in Britain, as well as arguably in western Europe, by the social democratic welfare state. It is also hardly contentious to see her premiership as the beginning of a new era in which we still live, when an overall political drift towards more right-wing neoliberal policies and ideas took place. The ideological shift Thatcher contributed to and wished for, has drawn a lot of commentary ever since she came to power in 1979. In the early eighties she was already increasingly seen as champion of Victorian values particularly for her praise of individual liberty and her general rejection of the emphasis on social equality as an aim per se, all the more so since she herself saw the connection of her values with the Victorian times, as she famously claimed in an 1983 interview:

Brian Walden: “[…] You’ve really outlined an approval of what I would call Victorian values. The sort of values, if you like, that helped to build the country throughout the 19th century. Now is that right?Margaret Thatcher: – “Oh exactly. Very much so. Those were the values when our country became great, but...

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