My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Dominic Sandbrook on Tax Rebellion

No one can accuse Dominic Sandbrook of lacking work ethic. He has published a steady stream of gripping and detailed histories of the post-war era. Few historians have as good an ear for the telling quotation, an admirable skill. Sandbrook is best known this side of the Atlantic for his on-going history of the United Kingdom. But he has also written persausively on the American experience. His first book, indeed, was on that mercurial American liberal, Eugene McCarthy.

In my own book, I treat the 1848 revolutions as one pivot, from which point the bourgeoisie became more conservative for fear of 'proletarianised democracy' (as I blogged a few days ago, the liberal historian Bennedetto Croce dated this development from the 1830s). At the other end, I see the international 1968 as another pivot, after which the politics of the bourgeoisie become ever bolder and 'revolutionary'. The 1970s was the decade in which this came evident. The rise of this audacious 'New Right' was driven at first by the 'small battalions', those outside the corporatist golden triangle of state/capitalist corporations/labour unions.

Sandbrook's excellent book on the United States in the 1970s, Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right (2011) chronicles and analyses this period with compelling drive. As he says, both the New-Left and Rightist libertarianism oweded something to the 1968 rebellion against the 'welfare-warfare state'. As Sandbrook wittily puts it:

Weedy pacfists who marched against "the machine" might sem a long way from Ayn Rand's muscular mavericks, but their disdain for authority meant that they were, if not bed-fellows, then at least propping up the same bar. [Mad as Hell, p. 278].

The 1970s saw a ground-swell against taxation in the US, partly because inflation was bringing middle incomes into the upper tax bracket, partly because of expanding welfare programmes.

Sandbrook quotes a Brooklyn housewife:

"My husband works hard and the taxes keep going up. The taxes go to the poor, not to us. And the rich have their tax accountants. The middle-income people are carrying the cost of liberal social programmes on their backs." [282]

'Proposition 13', a Californian referendum to mandate property tax limitation in 1978, was actually opposed by big business, as they feared that taxes would be shifted from household property to corporations. Prop 13, nonetheless, passed overwhelmingly. Over the the next ten years, $228 billion was 'saved' in taxes. Says Sandbrook, "the biggest winners were the major corporations that owned most of the property in the state." [284-5] So, this rise of the New Right obviously benefitted the capitalist leviathans, but there's no doubting its populist roots.

I mention Prop 13, and the tax revolt, in my book. But for a fuller flavour of this and much more, check out Sandbrook. He makes a rivetting read. Highly recommended.


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