The Life of the Intellect: Political Economy and Religion
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If Shaw had not written his plays, few people — perhaps no one — would be much concerned with his labours as a socialist thinker and propagandist or with his convictions as a religious philosopher, although in both areas his achievements, by ordinary standards, would have constituted an honourable life’s work. But the standards of history are severe: the career of a distinguished Fabian is by now of interest only to specialists in British political or economic history, that of a latter-day Lamarckian to an even more restricted circle. Nevertheless, Shaw’s ideas demand attention from those who would understand his work. Not only do they suggest his relation to the intellectual currents of his age but, in a quite direct way, they appear in his plays. In Mrs Warren’s Profession, for example, Shaw the socialist slips into the mouth of Crofts, the ‘capitalist bully’, an unconscious revelation of what Shaw sees as the pervasive corruption of capitalists society, in which all ‘are pocketing what they can’ and avoiding ‘inconvenient questions.’ in a more profound way, Shaw’s ideas, transformed into dramatic metaphors, permeater all his plays.
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- 1.See Julian Kaye, Bernard Shaw and the Nineteenth-Century Tradition (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958) pp. 9–25.Google Scholar
- 2.The case for the influence of Mill and the Utilitarians is well put by William Irvine in The Universe of G. B. S. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949) pp. 51–74.Google Scholar
- 6.For comments on the relationship of the Fellowship to the Fabian ideal of service to an exalted cause, see Robert Skidelsky, ‘The Fabian Ethic’, in Michael Holroyd (ed.) The Genius of Shaw (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1979) pp. 113–28.Google Scholar
- 8.Anne Fremantle, This Little Band of Prophets: The British Fabians (New York: New American Library, 1959) p. 46.Google Scholar
- 30.The story, deriving from Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory, is presented by J. Percy Smith in The Unrepentant Pilgrim: A Study of the Development of Bernard Shaw (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965) p. 147.Google Scholar