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Bernard Shaw as Artist-Fabian

Charles A. Carpenter

Publication Year: 2009

Charles Carpenter provides a new perspective on one of the most puzzling questions faced by Shaw scholars: how to reconcile the artist's individualist leanings with his socialist Fabian ideals. He does so by viewing Shaw as a maverick whose approach was impossible to duplicate and grew out of his unique artistic temperament, his outlook, and his vocation.

Shaw's activities in promoting the Fabians' goals of advancing social democracy were highly distinctive. He effectively used calculated irritation as an attention-getting tactic; he relied on devices that he had formulated as a creative rhetorician, rather than on the academic principles that were second nature to most of his fellow Fabians; and he devised and championed the use of indirect means to "persuade the world to take our ideas into account in reforming itself."

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xi-xiii

Bernard Shaw as a key member of the Fabian Society advocated for socialism, of course, but many have thought his socialism was peculiar, definitely nothing that Marx or Lenin would unequivocally approve of, and also not always in step with that of other Fabians. Some have thought that just as his...

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pp. xv-xvi

This study was conceived after I learned that the 2009 International Shaw Society Conference would be held in Washington, D.C., with the inevitable subject of “Shaw and Politics.” I chose a relevant topic, Shaw’s Fabian Socialism, and began research for an essay that I tried to make interesting...

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pp. xvii-xix

Bernard Shaw as Artist-Fabian approaches Bernard Shaw’s involvement in the Fabian Society from a point of view that has never before been systematically applied. In the twentieth century Shaw liked to call himself an “artist-philosopher,” but from 1894 through 1911 the label that fit him much...

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1. The Emergence of Shaw as a Fabian Activist

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pp. 1-9

Bernard Shaw rose out of obscurity into the dawn of Fabianism as a striking but amorphous image of brilliance and unconventionality. Sydney (later Baron) Olivier, casting about in 1883 for a socialist group of people who were “thinking intelligently” about social and economic conditions in England...

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2. The Roots of Shaw’s Distinctive Fabianism

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pp. 10-22

It is widely recognized that as one of the most prominent and energetic Fabian socialists, Bernard Shaw was typically offbeat. In long retrospect he characterized Sidney Webb, Graham Wallas, and Sydney Olivier as the Three Musketeers of Fabianism in the early days, and wryly noted that he...

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3. “Educate”

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pp. 23-40

Fabian activism can be characterized by the two active verbs “educate” and “permeate.” In this context “educate” denotes open and explicit attempts at inducing adherence to Fabian doctrine, “permeate” concealed and implicit attempts. As a master verbalizer, Shaw carried a disproportionate load...

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4. “Permeate”

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pp. 41-75

Shaw was welcomed as a valued collaborator in the Fabian strategy of permeation, teaming with Webb and others in a far-reaching campaign to influence units of political power to adopt their melioristic policies. The Fabian Margaret Cole conveys “a Fabian vision of Britain in which every...

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5. “Irritate”

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pp. 76-86

To a much greater degree than other prominent Fabians, Shaw thrived on attention—attention to his appearance, his personality, his ideas, perhaps above all his verbalizing. The last of these set all the rest in motion. Riveting words brought a sharpened focus on the distinctive qualities of his being...

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pp. 87-89

Shaw’s tenure as a Fabian activist technically expired in April of 1911, when he resigned from the Executive Committee. As Henderson puts it, “The political wirepuller, conciliator and committee man was dead; the solitary prophet remained” (George Bernard Shaw, 283). However, Shaw had strongly...


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pp. 91-103

Sources Consulted

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pp. 105-111


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pp. 113-115

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045160
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034058
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034051

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 801841456
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bernard Shaw as Artist-Fabian

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Subject Headings

  • Shaw, Bernard, -- 1856-1950 -- Political and social views.
  • Literature and society -- England -- History -- 19th century.
  • Literature and society -- England -- History -- 20th century.
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