The patriotic collectivism of Empire and its apologists laid the groundwork for British socialist politics in the 20th Century, and like so many other Victorian constructions it has proved immensely durable, and today Britain has one of the most thoroughly socialist cultures and populations anywhere in the world. Other states with an imperial heritage appear to have been less prone to subsequent social-democratic drift, though the United States is an interesting case, since the Roosevelt years seem to have achieved a deep socialisation of the economy without any previous imperial phase, unless we are to see this as a result of the empire of federated states that emerged after the Civil War.
Certainly, where we find patriotic collectivism we often find the emergence of intense varieties of socialism, and the growth of Nazism from Prussian militarism, amongst other fertile sources, is a good example, but an extreme one that failed to last. A more useful illustration is the moderate, enduring, and all-pervading socialism of British politics, where the major parties offer only slightly different varieties of the same fundamental approach, is a more useful illustration. It is commonplace to refer to this as the Post 1945 Settlement, and I would be the last person to underestimate the importance of the Attlee government in realising and fixing this ideology. However, the transformation of a train of thought into a set of grounding presumptions is clearly evident in the inter-war period, and can be seen coalescing throughout the nineteenth century. Throughout its growth the Empire is a distinct and notable causal factor.
Perhaps we can go further and suggest that insofar as British socialism has characteristics that distinguish it from other kinds, then the Empire is a plausible explanation. The continuities are to me at any rate striking, for far from being a purely rapacious commercial operation, the imperial administration, certainly in the later 19th Century, and arguable exceptions such as Milner aside, has the appearance of a condescending and intensely conceited philanthropic enterprise, determined to do good regardless of the cost to the taxpayer in Britain or the lucrative opportunities it presented to the companies employed to do its bidding overseas. Indeed, this unrealistic altruism was carried over into the post-imperial phase, and accounts for part of the otherwise paradoxical patriotism and imperialism of the Attlee governments, which jeopardised its domestic programme through a stubborn adherence to a world role in Korea and elsewhere.
It may at first seem odd to claim Kipling as the herald of modern socialism, and no one will deny that the implications of his writings are mixed; but his world-view often, though not invariably, puts a collective aim above that of individual satisfaction, and this commits the mind to a process of reasoning that inevitably tends leftwards, in spite of the numerous disadvantages and falsehoods of that orientation.