Resisting the enormous condescension of posterity: Richard Henry Tawney, Raymond Williams and the long struggle for a democratic education

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West, L. R. (2016)

Peter Jarvis emphasised relationships in education: people in the West assumed we were born as individuals but we are relationally embedded from the outset and learn to become social beings. This paper is concerned with how we learn democratic sensibilities with a prime focus on ‘liberal’ workers’ education in the United Kingdom and the building of social democracy. It helps us to think about present crises of representative democracy and troubled relations between different ethnic groups. Strengthening our humanity by cultivating I/thou experience, across difference, was the contribution of forms of workers’ education in the United Kingdom. This involved an unusual alliance, in European terms, between progressives in universities and workers’ organisations. Tawney, a Christian Socialist, and Williams, a humanistic Marxist, have more in common when rescued from the condescension of certain historical analysis, and when their contribution is interrogated through life writing, auto/biographical research and the psychosocial concept of recognition.
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