Beatrice and Sidney Webb: Fabian Socialists by Lisanne Radice

By Lisanne Radice

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Sample text

But she persevered, mainly because writing was now her only link with the outside world. Her second work, also unpublished, was a dismissive essay on Karl Marx. 'Karl Marx's analysis not only represents no order of things, but no conceivable order of things', she argued fiercely. She took the view that his assertion that labour was the only source of value was too narrow, and concluded that value had to correspond to social consumption. Marx's analysis, Beatrice claimed, took account neither offashion nor of the difficulties of finding markets; nor of the 'manifold qualities essential' to the successful man of business.

Her emotional life in ruin, career blighted before it had started, Beatrice turned in that summer of I886 to a study of political economy, as if the difficulties of the subject would eradicate the misery of her present situation. As was usual, her studies were 34 Beatrice and Sidney Webb thorough and she worked her way through every writer's work she could lay her hands on. She disciplined herself severely and for the first time tried her hand at a serious essay: 'The Rise and Growth of English Economics' for which she had publication hopes.

But because she was lonely and also because she could not rid herself of her obsession with Chamberlain, Beatrice was wracked by self-doubt. She began to question earnestly what she called 'my small attempts at self-culture', deciding that it would be wiser to direct her energies into a more suitable field- that of community work. Here, apart from being a recognised occupation for the spinster daughters of the rich middle classes, she felt she might at least be useful. A chance came when her sister Kate, who had married Leonard Courtney, barrister and rising young politician, gave up her unpaid job as rent collector and quasi-social worker in St Katherine's Buildings near Tower Bridge.

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