chapter  4
157 Pages

A New View of Robert Owen: Reform or Revolution

The choice, then, between reform or revolution, involved two contemporaneous strands of development, the one towards political the other towards industrial democracy. Robert Owen is not to be understood at all except as a man of his time, of the French Political and the British Industrial Revolutions; nor fully to be understood except as a man of first stage of the Industrial Revolution. Yet not in Owen's view, not the change that was to establish an industrial democracy, not the revolution that this least violent, this most sweetly reasonable of men sought to bring about. Though there had been in the years leading up to 1832 theoretical choice between these two ways forward, towards political democracy or towards industrial democracy, few would have distinguished the two so sharply before the passage of the Reform Bill. None of this is to ignore Thompson's evidence that some among the older Radicals saw that the Bill did nothing immediately to secure political democracy.