Labour History, No. 78 (May, 2000), pp. 7-32.
The public-private conflict mentioned above has been for several centuries in sharp focus in the battle between “the right” and “the left” at various levels of politics. The latter finds solutions in modifications of the capitalist system, and the former in the socialist system. The twentieth century was a period of social experiments, attempting to find third pathways. Scholarship cannot resist the political dimension – ‘knowledge is power’, but it has a far better capacity to prevent the corruption of value than what is common for the polemist. ‘Community’ has been for the last fifty years the new modern value, although conservatives, who are oddly labelled ‘post-modernists’, such as the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, have insightfully demonstrated the ancient ties in the modern usage of the concept. The Taksa reading cast forth to the recent ‘labour-community coalitions’ in the last two decades (since the date of the reading). Taksa challenges the ideas of consensus used by labour historians who have taken up the values and perspectives generally espoused in local history. Taksa utilises the work of another Macintyre, the Australian historian, Stuart Macintyre. The problem Taksa illuminates is well summed up in her quote of Macintyre:
…[the] notion of community is used and abused in a seemingly endless variety of contexts. Often it serves as a cant word, conjuring up a nostalgic closeness and attachment where these qualities patently do not exist. As used in the social sciences, the term itself is so imprecise and so laden with unwarranted implications that some have cast doubt on the entire enterprise of community studies.
If the Dew reading was over-optimistic then the reader is invited to consider whether the Taksa reading is too pessimistic in the promise of community value.