to pass from a “way of conflict” to a “way of life” is to pass out of the main line of the socialist intellectual tradition. I don’t mean that Raymond Williams has “broken” with socialism: at many points he has a more constructive insight into the possibilities of socialism in this country than anyone living. But in his first conceptual chapters he has cast loose his moorings; and some of his insights in the last section, “Britain in the 1960s”, do not arise so much from his stated conceptual framework as from unstated allegiances or traditional assumptions—derived from Marx or Morris or evoked in Border Country. Indeed, they often contradict what has gone before. At the end of his interesting discussion of problems in the field of publishing he comments:
We should be much clearer about these cultural questions if we saw them as a consequence of a basically capitalist organization, and I at least know better reason for capitalism to be ended. (33)
But “culture” is being used here in a different— and more limited—meaning from the one which we have been discussing; and “capitalism” carries implications which might conflict with a “system of maintenance”. Again and again in these pages unsuspected connections are revealed which throw light upon contemporary capitalism as a social system, or “way of conflict”, which call in question his own unsatisfactory definition of capitalism as “a particular and temporary system of organising the industrial process” (by whom? for whom?).
It may be that Mr. Williams’ originality demands free play outside a tradition within which so much is now confused. But if others accept his vocabulary and his conceptual framework, without sharing his allegiances, they may come up with very different results. For between these “systems” and that “way of life” I fear that they may forget that at the centre there are men in relation with one another: that “organising the industrial process” involves ownership, that ownership involves power, and that both perpetually feed property-relationships and dominative attitudes in every field of life. And that, between this system and a human system there lies, not just a further long episode of “expansion” and “growth”, but a problem of power.
Power, indeed, does not seem to find an easy
In the confused decade when he was writing Culture and Society, I also went over a part of that tradition. My work is sometimes strident, and I am glad to defer to his judgement on many points. But on one point, in my study of Morris, I cannot withdraw: and that is the chapter, "The River of Fire", in which I describe how Morris in his fiftieth year gave his allegiance to the socialist cause. It does not seem to me to be sufficient to say, as Mr. Williams does, that Morris gave a "radically new application" to the ideas of the tradition, announcing "the extension of the tradition into our own century." I think that Morris took over and transformed a part of the tradition when he became a revolutionary, and that this constitutes a point of crisis in our intellectual history. I think that in fact "the tradition", as something which could be contained within the conventions of bourgeois self-criticism, was breaking down: a critical point was reached in 1870 with Ruskin's Fors Clavigera addressed to working men. The final transformation, in Morris's life, entailed a crisis of values and a break with received ideas and class attitudes so sharp, that I am forced to use the old word, "conversion". Thereafter we must think of two traditions: Morris and Marx, taken together, constitute the major revolutionary tradition, and the continuing tradition of bourgeois self-criticism becomes exposed to far more searching questions because of what Marx, Morris and the new socialist movement had done. I find it difficult to forgive Mr. Williams for the established sniff with which he concludes his appraisal of Morris: "the life went out of that kind of general swearing and homily soon after Morris's death . . . "
I know only too well what he means. But let us take an example—as when Morris, in a Commonweal note offers Durer's Knight and Death as "a figurement of the doom of Blood and Iron in our own day", where the—