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The Victorian Legacy in Political Thought


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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New Labour’s Discourse on Social Cohesion and the First Fabians’ Paradoxical Legacy: the Case of Anti-Social Behaviour: Marie Terrier



New Labour’s Discourse on Social Cohesion and the First Fabians’ Paradoxical Legacy: the Case of Anti-Social Behaviour

Governments in Western countries have been concerned about the increase of disrespectful and offensive behaviour, or “incivilities”, as they are called in France, Germany or the United States. In this context, the Labour governments of Tony Blair1 put the fight against what they described as “anti-social behaviour” on top of its law and order agenda. It based its policy on the idea that some neighbourhoods, or communities, were “plagued” by a minority of individuals who adopt deviant behaviours which are not in effect punished by the law. Britain is not the only country where this problem has raised concern. In the 1990s, Rudolph Giuliani2, the mayor of New York, adopted the motto “zero tolerance” to describe his effort to crack down on relatively minor offenses. The aim of this policy was to send the message that order would be maintained with the hope that it would ultimately restore the city’s quality of life and dynamism. In France, “cases of violence and incivility” have also been studied by specialists (Alain Bauer, 2010). “Insecurity” has been a major concern in political campaigns, but the expression “anti-social behaviour” has not been used. When French politicians speak about those “who are making honest people’s life a misery”, they rather resort to words such as “rascal”, “scum” or “delinquent” (Nathalie Schuck, 2010). The rise of petty crime and anti-social behaviour is not...

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