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HISTORICAL CASES

My book Other People’s Struggles presented a theory of adherence illustrated with historical cases. But there was not sufficient space to provide the cases in detail, and to do so would have been distracting. However, it is part of my theoretical argument that the detail matters, because adherence involves a complex and subtle set of relationships.

Adherents, according to my argument in Other People’s Struggles, are motivated by disjoint moral obligations and norms of service to others. To judge whether and how the problem of the adherent varies, it therefore has to be examined empirically across a long historical period, and also in depth. The motivations of conscience are not eternal truths, as religion sometimes suggests. Nor are they reducible to biological concern for others, as the psychological experimenters tell us. Biology only defines the lowest baseline for conscience. Above this baseline, which is to say in every respect that matters for understanding how people behave politically, conscience is the product of historical circumstances and contingencies. It has its own history and genealogy. What conscience demands of people (or they demand of themselves) varies across time, because it is neither the consequence of transcendental values nor biological composition, but of changing ideas, social expectations and norms.

For this reason, I studied adherence through a series of six cases which together comprise an historical account of the playing out of the dilemma of adherence as it occurred in a particular historical location (Britain) over the last hundred and fifty years or so. In each case they were also intended to address an important historical question, in order to show what we can gain in understanding by applying my theory. They were structured as a series of pairs, placed in an overlapping chronological sequence.

LABOUR REPRESENTATION AND THE PROFESSIONAL CLASSES

The first two case studies examine two dilemmas concerning adherents and class. Representation and the professional classes concerns a dilemma of representation, specifically the question of whether the labour interest could be satisfactorily represented in the legislature by members of other social classes. The specific historical puzzle here concerns why it has sometimes (but not always) been possible for workers to be represented in Parliament by middle class Labour MPs. My main source material is an original database of Labour MPs from the earliest examples in the late nineteenth century to the 1945 election, which I originally developed for other work and have now expanded. The data suggests several unfamiliar shifts in the representative basis of the Labour Party, which my theory of adherence helps to explain.

THE SEARCH FOR SOCIALIST FELLOWSHIP

The search for socialist fellowship examines work in a different orientation. It concerns the problem of building socialist fellowship among recruits from different social classes. What sort of changes do middle class people need to make to the way they live when they participate in workers’ movements? This question was the subject of a vigorous but forgotten debate among British socialists in the 1880s. Some thought everything ought to change, and others nothing. I use the articles, correspondence and other writings of Edward Carpenter, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw and others to set out the terms of this debate, and to answer the specific historical puzzle of this chapter: why people who agreed on so much else differed so widely on the question of social fellowship. I also explore the consequences of this unresolved question for British socialism.

BEYOND THE VOTE: MEN AND FEMINISM BEFORE 1914

Two further cases concern adherents and gender. The historical puzzle I address concerns why male sympathisers were readily mobilised in the Edwardian women’s suffrage movement, but demobilised in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s.

In Beyond the vote: men and feminism before 1914, I examine the women’s movement before the First World War. The presence of men in the movement has been very capably studied already, but only in the respect in which they were arguably least problematic, as advocates of votes for women. However, the women’s movement was not merely a campaign for the vote, but was also concerned with issues of identity and belonging. My chapter examines the role of men in these other types of work to see whether the conclusions that have been reached concerning their work for the vote apply there too. My source material is a journal called The Freewoman – which is often used to identify the claims and counter-claims of early twentieth century British feminism. Some of the contributors were men, but no one has asked how their views differed from those of women. I analyse the debates across a number of issues, including marriage, motherhood, women’s employment and sex, to see where the differences lay. The conclusions help to confirm the importance of orientation, as well as long-run historical change in determining the possibilities for adherence.

MEN AND THE DEMANDS OF WOMEN’S LIBERATION

Men and the demands of women’s liberation looks at the women’s movement in a much later period – the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s – and attempts to explain whether and why the place of men there was seemingly so very different. One possibility is that men did not believe in the women’s demands. In this case study, I test that theory using original polling data from British public opinion surveys from the 1960s to the 1980s. For each of the six demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement, I have identified a set of polling questions, obtained the data and split the sample into men and women. I have analysed men and women’s responses to see how and where they differ. The results are complex, but on many of the demands, men were no less ‘feminist’ than women and on some they were more so. The reasons for their absence from the movement therefore lie elsewhere, and the chapter explores what these might be.

PROBLEMS OF VICARIOUS ANTI-IMPERIALISM

Another pair of cases examine movements concerned with the place of outsiders in other people’s struggles overseas. In Problems of vicarious anti-imperialism I examine adherent support for the anti-colonial movement. Why did some Indian anti-colonial activists seek out the help of British supporters, but others reject such help even when it was offered and potentially useful to them? Historians of British anti-colonialism have tended to treat all such help as welcome, the only puzzle being why there was so little of it. But no one has examined the value that the colonised themselves placed on help from those among their colonisers, or the dilemmas which such help created for them. I distinguish between four distinct groups in the Indian anti-colonial movement: British Indians, extremists, networkers and Gandhian satyagrahis, and explain why and with what consequences they differed over the value of the adherent.

SOLIDARITY IN THE GLOBAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT

In this case study concerned with solidarity in the global justice movement, I look at the metamorphosis of the anti-colonial movement into contemporary movements for the pursuit of global justice. The final case study deals with the contemporary Global Justice Movement, and especially in the alter-globalization movement. How is solidarity built in a movement which bring together people from so many countries, and from such diverse social backgrounds? I consider and reject both the theory that the activists come from similarly ‘precarious’ social locations, and the theory that they endorse shared framings of the problems of global justice.

I propose instead that solidarity is secured according to the concepts I have developed to explain adherence: the orientation and ambition of the work. Solidarity rests neither on shared precariousness, nor a common framing of the struggle, but on conjoint processes or practices which may or may not deliver usable frames. I also look at the new theorisations of the question of adherence that the alter-globalization movement is developing. I focus especially on the two most important for my theme: first, the possibility of the re-emergence of disjointness in the guise of an avant-garde; and secondly, the maintenance of collective belonging and commitment in a movement in which intense personal participation is so strong a motivating force.

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