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Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left


Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN: 1-58367-086-6
Released: December 2003

Ralph Miliband (1924-94) was a key twentieth century political thinker. His books The State in Capitalist Society and Parliamentary Socialism influenced a generation of the left. Miliband was an academic and public intellectual whose life and work were devoted to the attempt to define and apply an independent form of socialism. He was an influential teacher and theorist who played a key role within the political and intellectual community of the Left, both in Britain and in North America, where he held several visiting professorships.

The Socialist Register, which he founded (with John Saville) and edited for thirty years, brought him into contact with left-wing intellectuals throughout the world. This biography draws Miliband as an energetic letter writer, and his letters, many on issues of political importance with such figures as E.P. Thompson, C.Wright Mills, Leo Huberman, Harry Magdoff, Leszek Kolakowski, Marcel Liebman, Rossana Rossanda, K.S. Karol, Daniel Singer, André Gorz and Perry Anderson.

Based on exclusive access to Miliband’s extensive personal papers, and supplemented by interviews, this book analyzes the ideas and contribution of a key figure in the British and international Left from the Second World War until the collapse of communism. The book also provides an interpretative history of the evolution, debates and dilemmas of socialists throughout the period, and of the problems they faced both at work defending academic freedom and in society at large.

A very fine biography of a key figure who for so long deservedly stood as a beacon on the international left for the way he articulated and redefined socialist politics.

—Leo Panitch

Miliband’s own interventions in his time live on, in his books and essays; but his personal writings, amply extracted here, give a vivid sense of the man behind them—making this a good book to have.” “admirably clear in its construction and scrupulously researched…

—Susan Watkins, New Left Review, Jan/Feb 2003



List of Illustrations



Chapter One: Socialism and Identity

  • Growing up in Brussels and London, 1924–41
  • Cambridge and LSE, 1941–43
  • The Navy, 1943–46

Chapter Two: Apprenticeship (1946–56)

  • Reuniting the Family
  • Academic Life
  • On the Labour Left
  • Writings
  • The Legacy of Laski

Chapter Three: The New Left and Parliamentary Socialism (1956–62)

  • New Relationships
  • Parliamentary Socialism
  • The Politics behind Parliamentary Socialism
  • A New Left Theorist?

Chapter Four: The Sixties (1962–69)

  • The Break with the Labour Party
  • From New Left Review to The Socialist Register
  • The Crises of the 1960s

Chapter Five: Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Chapter Six: The State in Capitalist Society and the Debate with Poulantzas

  • The State in Capitalist Society
  • The Miliband-Poulantzas Debate

Chapter Seven: Marxism and Politics (1970–77)

  • Political Thought
  • Political Practice: The Centres for Marxist Education And the Idea of a New Socialist Party

Chapter Eight: An Uphill Struggle (1977–91)

  • A Year in Boston and its Consequences
  • Politics and the United States
  • Analyzing ‘Thatcherism’
  • ‘Bennism’ and the Socialist Society
  • Confronting the ‘New Revisionism’
  • Soviet-type Regimes and the Gorbachev Reforms
  • The Independent Left Corresponding Society and the Chesterfield Conferences
  • The Collapse of Communism

Chapter Nine: In Pursuit of Socialism

Conclusion: Ralph Miliband Today

Notes on Sources & Bibliography


Micheal Newman is Jean Monnet Professor of European Studies and Professor of Politics at the University of North London. His previous books include Harold Laski: A Political Biography (1993), John Strachey (1989), and Democracy, Sovereignty and the European Union (1996). Tony Benn is a former Labor Party parliamentarian and Minister of Technology in Britain, and was for many years the unofficial leader of the British parliamentary left.

SKU: mrp0866 Categories: ,
Topics: Biography History Places: Europe

Publication Date: December 2003

Number of Pages: 384

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670866