R. H. Tawney, fully Richard Henry Tawney

R. H.
Tawney, fully Richard Henry Tawney

Indian-born English Economic Historian, Social Critic, Ethical Socialist and proponent of Adult Education

Author Quotes

The only significance of these clich‚s is that their repetition tends to muffle their inanity, even to the point of persuading sensible men that capital "employs" labor, much as our pagan ancestors imagined that the other pieces of wood and iron, which they deified in their day, sent their crops and won their battles.

The true cause of industrial warfare is as simple as the true cause of international warfare. It is that if men recognize no law superior to their desires, then they must fight when their desires collide. For though groups or nations which are at issue with each other may be willing to submit to a principle which is superior to them both, there is no reason why they should submit to each other.

Those who dread these qualities, energy and thought and the creative spirit... will not discriminate... between different types and kinds of property... They will endeavor to preserve all private property, even in its most degenerate forms. And those who value those [qualities]... will not desire to establish any visionary communism, for... the free disposal of a sufficiency of personal possessions is the condition of a healthy and self-respecting life, and will seek to distribute more widely the property rights which make them today the privilege of a minority... They will insist that property is moral and healthy only when it is used as a condition not of idleness but of activity, and when it involves the discharge of definite personal obligations. They will endeavor, in short, to base it upon the principle of function.

When a Cabinet Minister declares that the greatness of this country depends upon the volume of its exports, so that France, with exports comparatively little, and Elizabethan England, which exported next to nothing, are presumably to be pitied as altogether inferior civilizations, that is Industrialism... When the Press clamors that the one thing needed to make this island an Arcadia is productivity, and more productivity, and yet more productivity, that is Industrialism. It is the confusion of means with ends.

The organization of industry as a profession does not involve only the abolition of functionless property, and the maintenance of publicity as the indispensable condition of a standard of professional honor. It implies also that that those who perform its work should undertake that its work is performed effectively... that they should treat the discharge of professional responsibilities as an obligation attaching not only to a small ‚lite of intellectuals, managers or "bosses,"... but as implied by the... corporate consent and initiative of the rank and file of workers.

The typical workman was not a laborer but a peasant or small master... the moral justification of the title to property was self-evident. It was obviously, what theorists said that it was, and plain men knew it to be, the labor spent in producing, acquiring and administering it. Such property was not a burden upon society, but a condition of its health and efficiency, and indeed, of its continued existence. To protect it was to maintain the organization through which public necessities were supplied.

To build on a foundation of rights and of rights alone is to build on a quicksand.

When Bacon, who commended Henry VII for protecting the tenant right of the small farmer, and pleaded in the House of Commons for more drastic land legislation, wrote "Wealth is like muck. It is not good but if it be spread," he was expressing in an epigram that was the commonplace of every writer on politics from Fortescue at the end of the fifteenth century to Harrington in the middle of the seventeenth.

The owner of royalties who, when asked why he should be paid... from minerals which he has neither discovered nor developed nor worked but only owned, replies "But it's Property!"... His claim is to be allowed to continue to reap what another has sown.

The work of making boots or building a house is in itself no more degrading than that of curing the sick or teaching the ignorant. It is as necessary and therefore as honorable. It should be at least equally bound by rules which have as their object to maintain the standards of professional service. It should be at least equally free from the vulgar subordination of moral standards to financial interests.

To deplore "ill-feeling" or to advocate "harmony" between "labor and capital" is as rational as to lament the bitterness between carpenters and hammers or to promote a mission for restoring amity between mankind and its boots.

When men have gone so far as to talk as though their idols have come to life, it is time that someone broke them.

The owners of mines and minerals, in their new role as protectors of the poor, lament the "selfishness" of the miners, as though nothing but pure philanthropy had hitherto caused profits and royalties to be reluctantly accepted by themselves.

The world "continues in scarcity," because it is too grasping and too short-sighted to seek that "which maketh men to be of one mind in a house."

To escape such inequality it is necessary to recognize that there is some principle which ought to limit the gains of particular classes and particular individuals, because gains drawn from certain sources or exceeding certain amounts are illegitimate. But such a limitation implies a standard of discrimination, which is inconsistent with the assumption that each man has a right to what he can get, irrespective of any service rendered for it.

When men have gone so far as to talk as though their idols have come to life, it is time that someone broke them. Labor consists of persons, capital of things. The only use of things is to be applied to the service of persons. The business of persons is to see that they are there to use, and that no more than need be is paid for using them.

The perversion of nationalism is imperialism, as the perversion of individualism is industrialism... because the principle is defective and reveals its defects as it reveals its power. For it asserts that the rights of nations and individuals are absolute, which is false... their sphere itself is contingent upon the part which they play in the community of nations and individuals... It constrains them to a career of indefinite expansion, in which they devour continents and oceans, law, morality and religion, and last of all their own souls, in an attempt to attain infinity by the addition to themselves of all that is finite.

The world reaps in war what it sows in peace.

To expect that international rivalry can be exorcised as long as the industrial order within each nation is such as to give success to those whose existence is a struggle for self-aggrandizement, is a dream which has not even the merit of being beautiful.

When... the meaning of industry is the service of man, all who labor appear... honorable, because all who labor serve, and the distinction which separates those who serve from those who merely spend is so crucial and fundamental as to obliterate all minor distinctions based on differences of income.

The phraseology of political controversy continues to reproduce the conventional antitheses of the early nineteenth century; "private enterprise" and "public ownership" are still contrasted with each other as light with darkness or darkness with light. But, in reality, behind the formal shell of the traditional legal system the elements of a new body of relationship have already been prepared, and find piece-meal application through policies devised, not by socialists, but by men who repeat the formul‘ of individualism, at the very moment when they are undermining it.

The... surplus normally passes neither to the managers, nor to the other employees, nor to the public, but to the shareholders. Such an arrangement is preposterous in the literal sense of being the reverse of that which would be established by considerations of equity and common sense, and gives rise (among other things) to what is called "the struggle between labor and capital."

To what can one compare such a society but to the international world, which also has been called a society and which also is social in nothing but name?

While an equilibrium between worker and manager is possible, because both are workers, that which it is sought to establish between worker and owner is not. Their proposals may be excellent: but it is not evident why they are where they are, or how, since they do not contribute to production, they come to be putting forward proposals at all. As long as they are in territory where they have no business to be, their excellence as individuals will be overlooked.

The interest of those who own the property used in industry... is that their capital should be dear and human beings cheap.

Author Picture
First Name
R. H.
Last Name
Tawney, fully Richard Henry Tawney
Birth Date
Death Date

Indian-born English Economic Historian, Social Critic, Ethical Socialist and proponent of Adult Education