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Theory in action: Jacques-Louis David's depiction of the Tennis Court Oath and the first days of the French Revolution

As I argue in the letters page of the forthcoming issue of Prospect (out next week), James Purnell is surely correct in asserting that the left currently needs more than modernised Marxism. But in denying the relevance of nineteenth century theories of equality to today’s political debate, he goes too far in rejecting the significance of theorists altogether.

In order to “understand justice better,” Purnell claims, we must consult…

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