Tawney, Richard H.

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Tawney, Richard H. (1880–1962) An English economic and social historian, social reformer, and egalitarian social philosopher. He was equally well known as a historian and champion of socialism—in both of which roles he exerted a significant influence on early British sociology during the post–1945 period. His classic texts on Equality (1920) and The Acquisitive Society (1931) exemplify the English tradition of Fabianism and ethical socialism. His best-known historical publications are probably Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926), Land and Labour in China (1932), and Business and Politics under James I (1962). Numerous collections of his essays are also in circulation (see, for example. The American Labour Movement and Other Essays, 1979
). Tawney was a committed Christian and this informed his criticism of the exploitative elements of capitalism. He argued that citizenship, equality of opportunity, collectivism, and a corporate society were necessary to eradicate the injustices associated with social class and inherited wealth. Social equality required also that the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity operate on the factory floor. His is still an original critique of the excessive individualism threatened by capitalism and of the inefficiencies (for example the creation of poverty) in the free market.