This book is an attempt ‘to think in a Gramscian way’ about the curious political phenomenon of New Labour. It is written partly in retort to those people at the heart of the New Labour project who have cited Gramsci as a source of inspiration for their ideas. Pearmain argues that New Labour makes a far better object than agent of Gramscian analysis.
Part I discusses Gramsci’s influence on left thinking in Britain - culminating in the 1980s debates in Marxism Today on Thatcherism and the ‘Forward march of Labour halted’. It shows how arguments loosely based on these debates then fed through into the Labour Party, as its leadership - from Kinnock to Blair and Brown - sought a better understanding of Labour’s defeats and how to adapt to ‘new times’.
Part II is a critique of New Labour, arguing that though elements of the Gramscian analysis of Labourism did play some part in its formation, much was lost in translation. In discussing the making of New Labour, and what it took from both right and left (as well as what it chose to leave out), Pearmain shows how Gramsci’s key political concepts offer a compelling explanation of exactly what went wrong with New Labour.
Andrew Pearmain is a political historian based at the University of East Anglia. He was a member of the Communist Party (1975-85), of the Labour Party (1997-2002), of the Green Party (2003-present) and a Norwich City councillor (1999-2003). He is also a consultant and national expert on social care for people with HIV/AIDS.