Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Reassessing Britain’s ‘Post-war consensus’: the politics of reason 1945–1979

Blackburn, Dean



Since the late-1970s, scholars have been engaged in a vibrant debate about the nature of post-war British politics. While some writers have suggested that the three decades that succeeded the Second World War witnessed a bi-partisan consensus on key policy questions, others have argued that it was conflict, not agreement, that marked the period. This article offers a novel contribution to this controversy by drawing attention to the epistemological beliefs of the Labour and Conservative parties. It argues that once these beliefs are considered, it becomes possible to reconcile some of the competing claims made by proponents and critics of the ‘post-war consensus’ thesis. Labour and Conservative leaders may have been wedded to different beliefs, but they also shared a common enthusiasm for empiricist reasoning and were both reluctant to identify fixed political ‘ends’ that they sought to realise. Consequently, they were both committed to evolutionary forms of change, and they eschewed the notion that any social or political arrangement was of universal value.


Blackburn, D. (2018). Reassessing Britain’s ‘Post-war consensus’: the politics of reason 1945–1979. British Politics, 13(2), 195-214.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 24, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 3, 2017
Publication Date 2018-06
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2017
Publicly Available Date Apr 20, 2017
Journal British Politics
Print ISSN 1746-918X
Electronic ISSN 1746-9198
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 195-214
Keywords Labour, Conservative ideology, Post-war Britain
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in British Politics. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Blackburn, D. Reassessing Britain’s ‘Post-war consensus’: the politics of reason 1945–1979 Br Polit (2017) is available online at:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations