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Curates of utopia

Who owns Raymond Williams, one of the father figures of the New Left? Fred Inglis tries to understand why his biography of Williams has been vilified by some left-wing reviewers

By Fred Inglis   March 1998

Britain has never had a left intelligentsia in the mode of Jean-Paul Sartre or Noam Chomsky, vivid public figures living in a state of pure and principled opposition to power.

The British intelligentsia has, indeed, been closer to policy than in many other countries. The great social architecture which was Britain’s pride-the NHS, national insurance, the Open University, public service broadcasting, nationally-owned energy and railways, civic schooling-was designed by troops of gas-and-water socialists from the universities and, as often as not, the old working class. Richard Titmuss, Chelly Halsey and Richard Hoggart joined happily with Brian Abel-Smith, Barbara Wootton and…

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