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The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought

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The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought

Volume 6

Cambridge UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

From the welfare state's rise to Marxism's fall, from Keynes to Reagan to feminism, history is political...and economic.

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Editorial Rating



If you skipped those economic or political lectures in your History of the Twentieth Century class, or if you simply need a refresher course, this hefty tome will walk you through the "isms" of the past 100 years. Editors Terence Ball and Richard Bellamy offer a remarkably thorough history that runs the gamut from fascism to Keynes, from feminism to environmentalism, from surrealism to mystical racism, and in a way that makes you realize that they’re all intertwined. Be forewarned, though, this isn’t light reading. It’s a dense, academic work by major political thinkers. getAbstract suggests this book to anyone interested in putting today’s political climate into historical context. If you are involved in the financial life of Europe or the United States, this is your back story.


The Rise of the Welfare State

The twentieth century was a cauldron that brewed a stew of political theories. Totalitarianism, fascism and communism rose and fell amid devastating wars. Feminism and other types of identity politics followed. Less dramatic but, perhaps, just as significant was the advance and partial retreat of the welfare state during the twentieth century.

The welfare state, a concept that reached its peak in the mid-1900s, used its power to control the economy and politics to redistribute income from the rich to the poor. In practice, this meant state pensions for the elderly and assistance for workers who unexpectedly became sick, hurt or unemployed. This idea of a safety net for the masses arose from the inequalities of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. European governments led the way in forming a new type of state paternalism. As early as the 1880s, Bismarck's Germany set up systems to care for injured workers and the poor. Britain, France and Sweden also sought to create systems to aid the masses. The United States was much more reluctant, although it eventually followed on the heels of those European nations where the governments...

About the Authors

Terence Ball is professor of political science at Arizona State University. A longtime academic, he has edited the political writings of James Mill and others. He wrote Rousseau’s Ghost: A Noveland other works. Richard Bellamy is professor of government at the University of Essex. He has edited a number of books and is the author of Modern Italian Social Theory, Liberalism and Pluralism and other books. This book is the chronological conclusion of the Cambridge History of Political Thought series.

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