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Harold Laski

Born June 30, 1893(1893-06-30)
Manchester, UK
Died March 24, 1950 (aged 56)
Nationality  United Kingdom
Fields Economics
Institutions London School of Economics
Alma mater New College, Oxford
Notable students V. K. Krishna Menon, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.,
K. R. Narayanan, Pierre Trudeau

Harold Joseph Laski (June 30, 1893 – March 24, 1950) was an English political theorist, economist, author, and lecturer, and served as the 1945-1946 chairman of the Labour Party.

After attending Manchester Grammar School and New College, Oxford, Laski became (1922-1936) a member of the executive committee of the socialist Fabian Society, and in 1936 he joined the Executive Committee of the Labour Party. Cowling describes him as a "prolific publicist and journalist."

In 1926 he was appointed professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics. One of his more famous books is Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (which was dedicated to Edward R. Murrow). He was active on the American university lecture circuit. His 19 year friendship with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, begun when he was 23 and Holmes was 75, is reflected in two volumes of correspondence, published in 1953.

He was a prominent proponent of Marxism and had a massive impact on the politics and the formation of India, having taught a generation of future Indian leaders at the LSE. It is almost entirely due to him that the LSE has a semi-mythological status in India. He was steady in his unremitting advocacy of the independence of India. He was a revered figure to Indian students at the LSE. One Indian Prime Minister said "in every meeting of the Indian Cabinet there is a chair reserved for the ghost of Professor Harold Laski". .[1]

George Orwell used a section from his book, Essay in Freedom of Expression, as an example of "especially bad" writing.

His elder brother was Neville Laski. A cousin was the author and publisher Anthony Blond.

Ayn Rand, in a collection of her essays, The Art of Fiction, remarks that after hearing a talk by Laski in the 1930's, he became for her the personification of the villain Ellsworth Toohey in her novel, The Fountainhead. In her words,

"It is true that he was not particularly liberal--that is, he was the most vicious liberal I have ever heard in public, but not blatantly so. He was very subtle and gracious, he rambled on a great deal about nothing in particular--and then he made crucial, vicious points once in a while [...] I thought, "There was my character." [...] Years later, I learned that [his] career was in fact somewhat like Toohey's: he was always the man behind the scenes, much more influential than anybody knew publicly, pulling the strings behind the governments of several countries. Finally he was proved to be a communist, which he did not announce himself as or blatantly sound like."


Selected Laski bibliography

  • Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty, 1917
  • Authority in the Modern State, 1919, ISBN 1-58477-275-1
  • Political Thought in England from Locke to Bentham, 1920
  • Karl Marx, 1921
  • A Grammar of Politics, 1925
  • Communism, 1927
  • Liberty in the Modern State, 1930
  • "The Dangers of Obedience and Other Essays" 1930
  • Democracy in Crisis, 1933
  • The State in Theory and Practice, 1935, The Viking Press
  • The Rise of Liberalism, 1936
  • The American Presidency, 1940
  • Reflections On the Revolution of our Time , 1943
  • Faith, Reason, and Civilisation, 1944
  • The American Democracy, 1948, The Viking Press
  • The Rise of European Liberalism

See also


  1. ^ Harold Laski: A Life on the Left. By Isaac Kramnick and Barry Sheerman., The Penguin Press, 1993

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ellen Wilkinson
Chair of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Philip Noel-Baker


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