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, 6 August 2012

James Burnham on the Hope for Democracy

James Burnham, a former Totskyist who ended up as a anti-Comunist Cold Warrior, in 1941 wote a book called The Managerial Revolution. Here he argued that the owners of capital were being replaced as the 'ruling class' by the organisers of capital accumulation: the managers. Fascism, Communism, and 'organized capitalism' were all on the same route of travel. Burnham's book was widely noticed at the time, and allegedly had an influence on Orwell's 1984.

Interestingly, Burnham compared the position of managers in the mid-twentieth-century to that of the bourgeoisie in the sixteenth-century. In the sixteenth-century there had been a “triple battle” of capitalists against the feudal lords and the masses. In the twentieth-century, it was now managers seeking to smash the hold of capitalists on the instruments of production, and to curb and co-opt the masses. In both epochs, the medium term result was a balance of forces that tended to create the circumstances favourable to state-dictatorships rising above the contending forces.

As the sixteenth century balance produced absolutism, so the twentieth century stalemate generated totalitarianism. Just as liberal constitutionalism eventually emerged from the triumph of capitalism in the nineteenth century, however, a completed managerial revolution would eventually generate democracy. This was the cheerfully optimistic conclusion absent in Orwell. In 1984, if there was any hope - and there wasn't much - it lay only with the proles.

[James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution (London: Penguin, 1941, 1945), pp. 142-3.]


  1. There was no 'bourgeoisie' in the Marxist sense in the 16th-century and thus no struggle with feudal Lords or the masses. Your claims are nonsense as any specialist in the period will tell you.

  2. Thanks for that, anon. You should probably direct your corrections to the ghost of James Burnham, however. He, as you can see, is the chap actually making the claims.

  3. thanks for sharing.