From the 1920s to the 1950s R. H. Tawney was the most influential socialist thinker in Britain. He articulated an ethical socialism at odds with powerful statist and mechanistic traditions in British socialist thinking. Tawney's work is thus an important antecedent to third way thinking. Tawney's religiously-based critique of the morality of capitalism was combined with a concern for detailed institutional reform, challenging simple dichotomies between public and private ownership. He began a debate about democratizing the enterprise and corporate governance though his efforts fell on stony ground. Conversely, Tawney's moralism informed a whole-hearted condemnation of market forces in tension with both his concern with institutional reform and modern third way thought. Unfortunately, he refused to engage seriously with emergent welfare economics which for many social democrats promised a more nuanced understanding of the limits of market forces. Tawney's legacy is a complex one, whose various elements form a vital part of the intellectual background to current third way thinking
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