Log in

Revised book list - visions_of_the_present

Jun. 26th, 2006

03:29 pm - Revised book list

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

Visions of the Present:
some books
The following notes are in no way intended as a comprehensive bibliography. They are sources which I have found useful and which raise some of the issues which will be touched on in particular classes. It is not a précis of my talks, but a fairly free-associative list of themes and problems. I hope to post an outline of each talk a few days before each one – but that may be a utopian hope J. Publication dates for some widely-available works are missing; some are not to hand as I write; a line of *** means a serious omission. I will update this list from time to time, see:
For a discussion of some of the issues in utopian literature and a more focussed bibliography, see BRUCE'Introduction'.
News from Nowhere
This was written in part as a response to Edward BELLAMY’s technocratic vision of statist collectivism. It bears comparison with more recent utopias by Ernst CALLENBACH and by Marge PIERCY depicting anarcho-communist worlds which combine rural living with advanced technology. Both of these emerged from 1970s American counter-culture and New Left politics … it may be some while before their like appears again ! On Bellamy and Morris see MORTON English. The political background to this in dealt with in THOMPSON Morris. The roots of Morris’ medievalism are sketched in WILLIAMS Culture, Pt 1, Ch 7
The enormous importance in the history of English radicalism of a particular historical legend is discussed in HILL 'Norman'. A recent defence of the importance of heritage in the construction of an anti-capitalist vision by someone from the tradition descended from Morris is SAMUEL Theatres; this is in part a criticism of the anti-heritagism of WRIGHT Living. A polemic against a politics which uses heritage is FUREDI Mythical (the relevance of the author’s later political trajectory is a moot point !). For a wider discussion of some aspects of the politics of tradition, see NEOCLEOUS Monstrous
Part of Morris’ utopia is a hostility to cities, see BURUMA & MARGALIT Occident for a critical discussion of this.
Some of the difficulty in our response to Morris is that the culture which nurtured his vision has vanished, far a brief evocation of that culture see ELEY Forging 113-5
Brave New World
POSTMAN Amusing is an incisive critique of present-day culture in a way which takes Brave New World as a paradigmatic vision. For a criticism of those cultural fashions which have taken on the notion that the world has dissolved into a version of the ‘feelies’ see NORRIS Uncritical; his main target is BAUDRILLARD Simulations. An interesting conservative criticism of the culture of television is HITCHENS Abolition Ch 6. For a discussion of the importance of Henry Ford, see HARVEY Condition, Ch 8.
For a brief and incisive demolition of Huxley’s pretensions as a social critic, see CAREY Intellectuals - which also reminds us of some of the endorsements of barbarism by several of the figures in the 'progressive' tradition celebrated at Conway Hall, such as Shaw and H G Wells. ADORNO Prisms contains a sustained critique of Huxley, arguing that his vision is actually of the same order as that which it appears to be condemning - and this is partly explains its familiarity and popularity.
SHERBORNE Notes is a useful explanation of the sources of the characters’ names, the significance of most of which has now faded. It has a bibliography on Huxley and on Orwell. He has also written a similar guide to Nineteen Eighty Four, which I have not seen.
The culture from which this novel came, and to which it spoke, is evoked in GRAVES & HODGE Long. It seems to me that there are some parallels between Huxley’s attitude toward modernity and that of the literary and cultural critic F R Leavis - for a good dissing of him see ANNAN Age, Ch 20.
It’s now hard to realise that in the recent past it was assumed by both conservatives and revolutionaries that sexual repression, or at the very least Puritanism, was a major component of the fabric of political order. See, for example, the writings of Wilhelm Reich. Apart from the rantings of the crissie and mossie fundies, it’s hard to find anyone who now believes this. But for an early critique of some aspects of this, see JACOBY Social, ‘The Politics of Subjectivity’. In this sense, Huxley here appears more prescient than our next vision.
Nineteen Eighty Four
Yevgeny ZAMYATIN was one of the major sources of Orwell’s vision. The central image in this, the transparent dwellings, is derived from DOSTOEVSKY Underground, which in its turn is a rejection of BENTHAM’s view of political order. On Dostoevsky’s response to Bentham, see CARROLL Crystal. For a discussion of the device which is the origin of the telescreen, Bentham’s Panopticon, see FOUCAULT Discipline. One of the puzzles of Nineteen Eighty Four is its use of BURNHAM - see ORWELL’s criticism of his book. For the political background to James Burnham, see DEUTSCHER Outcast. For a discussion of Orwell see WILLIAMS Orwell and his later sharp modification of this, WILLIAMS Politics Pt V, Ch 2.
Orwell’s loathing of the politics of Stalinism derived from his experience of the betrayal by the Stalinists of the Spanish Revolution, see ORWELL Homage. For a sense of what he felt, see Ken Loach’s magnificent movie, partly based on it, Land and Freedom. To get some idea of the culture satirised in the figure of the oleaginous Parsons, see SAMUEL 'LWBC 1 - 3'.
For a savage attack on Orwell, by an avowed Stalinist see, once again, MORTON English: though I have listed this as a secondary work it is, in a strange way, also a primary source - both celebrating Morris, and denouncing Orwell for his polemic against Uncle Joe !!
Another influence on Orwell was LONDON Iron. It might be interesting to explore the uses of Orwell by White Racial Nationalists, given their use of the title of London’s novel, itself one of the key images in Nineteen Eighty Four, as a synonym for ‘ZOG’ and ‘The New World Order’.
The Space Merchants
For an early appreciation of this, see AMIS New. An example of the culture-criticism which this novel parallels is PACKARD Hidden. BOORSTIN Image is relevant here, as it is for Huxley. There is a discussion of the dissident impulse in contemporary American science-fiction in PILGRIM ***.
MARCUSE One takes up the native culture-criticism of the likes of Packard and injects into it the Critical Theory developed along with the abortive European revolutions of the 1920s - over 40 years old, this book is now more relevant than ever.
It is one of the oddities of American cultural history that so much of its writing has been - at least at some level - anti-cap. The reason this seems a puzzle is that one of the most influential books on British culture of the last two decades, WIENER English has argued that English literary culture has been massively anti-business and anti-technology. RUBINSTEIN Capitalism shows that this is not at all peculiar to the UK, but was the case in those nations (the USA and the German Federal Republic) used by Wiener and his many followers (eg Corelli Barnett and Margaret Thatcher) as paragons of those business virtues supposedly lacking in th UK. So the most powerful capitalist nations have had a strong culture which appeared to be anti-cap … how come? HEATH & POTTER Rebel offer a disturbing answer to this.
Making History
I came to read this book because I met - in a sense - its key character when I was a student at Ruskin College. (see www.livejournal.com/users/david_murray for post which will appear shortly - you’ll have to read the book to get the joke!).
Some other alternate history novels are: AMIS Alteration; MOORE Bring; DICK Man (Amis’ novel features an alternate version of this … if you see what I mean). Those with a stomach for multi-volume whoppers might try Harry Turtledove’s series The Great War (like Moore’s this is premised on a Confederate victory, seemingly a popular idea in this genre … I wonder why J ?). Don’t confuse it with his World War series, which has a race of feudal saurians invading Earth in 1940.
For a discussion of Alternate History see FERGUSON ‘Virtual’ and ROBERTS ‘Introduction’; for some examples of this genre, see the essays in those collections. Other volumes of such are COWLEY What? and COWLEY More. An attempt to theorise the cultural significance of alternate history is ROSENFELD ‘Reflections’. For the use of a kind of alternate history in the political memory of a defeated tradition, see PORTELLI ‘Uchronic’. For a gateway to Alternate History on the Web, see www.uchronia.net.
I strongly recommend a forthcoming talk - 

‘Alternate History and The End of History’, 

organised by Philosophy for All, @ The George Tavern, 
The Strand, London WC2R 1AP 
(Opposite The Royal Coursts of Justice), 2 August, 19:30.

YOU CAN FIND A MAP AT www.multimap.com and pasting the postcode into the search field.
AMIS Alteration: Kingsley Amis, The Alteration, Jonathan Cape, 1976
BELLAMY Looking: Edward Bellamy,  Looking Backward, Penguin,
CALLENBACH Ecotopia: Ernst Callenbach, Ecotopia, Pluto Press, 1976
DICK Man: Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle
DOSTOEVSKY Underground: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, trans. and ed. Michael R Katz, WW Norton, New York, 1989. Also available in Penguin, and in Walter Kaufman (ed.),  Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre.
FRY Making: Stephen Fry, Making History,Arrow, 1997
HUXLEY Brave: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World,Grafton Books, 1988
LONDON Iron: Jack London, The Iron Heel, Bantam, 1971
MOORE Bring: Ward Moore, Bring the Jubilee, Four Square, 1965
MORRIS News: William Morris, News from Nowhere, in Asa Briggs (ed.), William Morris - Selected Writings and Designs, Penguin, 1980
ORWELL Nineteen: George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four,Penguin, 1955
PIERCY Woman: Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time, The Women’s Press,
POHL & KORNBLUTH Space: Frederik Phol & C M Kornbluth, The Space Merchants,John Goodchild, Wendover, 1984
ZAMYATIN We: Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, Penguin,
ADORNO Prisms: Theodor Adorno, Prisms, trans. Samuel & Shierry Weber, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1986
AMIS New: Kingsley Amis, New Maps of Hell,Gollancz, 1961
ANNAN Age: Noel Annan, Our Age: The Generation That Made Post-War Britain, Harper Collins, 1995
BAUDRILLARD Simulacra: Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser, University of Michingan Press, 1994
BENTHAM Panopticon: Jeremy Bentham, The Panopticon Papers, Verso
BOORSTIN Image: Daniel J Boorstin, The Image, Penguin, 1961
BRIGGS'Morris': Asa Briggs,'The Appeal of William Morris', in his The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs Vol II, TheHarvester Press, 1985
BRUCE'Introduction': Susan Bruce, ‘Introduction’, to Susan Bruce (ed.) Three Early Modern Utopias, Oxford, 1999
BURNHAM Managerial: James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, Penguin
BURUMA & MARGALIT Occident: Ian Baruma & Avishai Margalit, Occidentalism - A Short History of Anti-Westernism, Atlantic Books, 2004
CAREY Intellectuals CAREY 1992 John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses, Faber and Faber, 1992
CARROLL Crystal: John Carroll, Break-Out from the Crystal Palace, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974
COWLEY More: Robert Cowley (ed.), More What If?, Pan Books, 2001
COWLEY What?: Robert Cowley (ed.), What If?, Pan Books, 2001
DEBORD Spectacle: Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books, New York, 1995.
DEUTSCHER Outcast DEUTSCHER 1963: Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, OUP, 1970
ELEY Forging : Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy, OUP, 2002
FERGUSON 'Virtual': Niall Ferguson, ‘Introduction - Virtual History: Towards a “chaotic” theory of the past’, in Niall Ferguson (ed.) Virtual History , Papermac, 1998
FOUCAULT Discipline: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan, Penguin, 1979
FUREDI Mythical: Frank Furedi, Mythical Past, Elusive Future , Pluto, 1992
GRAVES & HODGE Long: Robert Graves & Alan Hodge, The Long Week-end, Four Square Books, 1965
HARVEY Condition: David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, Basil Blackwell, 1994
HEATH & POTTER Rebel: Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell, Capstone Publishing, 2005
It is worth googling these, and also <Thomas Frank>
HEWLETT'Paradise': Maurice Hewlett, ‘A Materialist’s Paradise’, review of News from Nowhere, in Peter Faulkner (ed.) William Morris - The Critical Heritage, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. 1st publ., National Review No XVII, August 1891
HILL'Norman': Christopher Hill, ‘The Norman Yoke’: in his, Puritanism and Revolution, Panther, 1968. 1st publ. in John Saville (ed.), Democracy and the Labour Movement, Lawrence & Wishart, 1954
JACOBY Politics: Russell Jacoby,  The Politics of Subjectivity, Harvester
JAMESON'Progress' JAMESON1982: Fredric Jameson, ‘Progress Versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?’, in Brian Wallis (ed. ) Art After Modernism, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, in assoc. with David R Godine, 1984. 1st publ., Science-Fiction Studies Vol 9 No 2, July 1982
JOHNSON L'Review News' JOHNSON L 1891: Lionel Johnson,‘Review’ of News
from Nowhere, in Peter Faulkner (ed.) William Morris - The Critical Heritage,
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. 1st publ., Academy No XXXIX, 23 May 1891
KNIGHT Conspiracy: Peter Knight, Conspiracy Culture - From the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files, Routledge, 2000
LOWENTHAL Past: David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country, Cambridge University Press, 1985
MARCUSE One: Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man
MARSHALL Morris: Roderick Marshall, William Morris and his Earthly Paradises,  Compton Press, 1979
McLUHAN & FIORE Medium: Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage, Hardwired, 1996
McLUHAN Understanding: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Routledge, 2002
MORRIS'How' MORRIS1894: William Morris, ‘How I Became a Socialist’. in Asa Briggs (ed.) William Morris - Selected Writings and Designs, Penguin, 1980. 1st publ., Justice, 16 June 1896
MORTON English: A L Morton, The English Utopia,Lawrence & Wishart, 1952
NEOCLEOUS Monstrous: Mark Neocleous, The Monstrous and the Dead: Burke, Marx, Fascism, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2005
NORRIS Uncritical: Christopher Norris, Uncritical Theory - Postmodernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War, Laurence & Wishart, 1992
ORWELL ‘Burnham’: George Orwell, ‘James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution’, in Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Vol IV, Penguin,
ORWELL Homage: George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, Penguin
PACKARD Hidden: Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders, Penguin
PILGRIM ***: John Pilgrim, *****, Anarchy c 1964. This is a study of social criticism in American SF … sorry I cannae remember its title, if anyone is really keen, then I’ll visit the archives and dig it out.
PORTELLI ‘Uchronic’: Alessandro Portelli, ‘Uchronic Dreams: Working-class memory and possible worlds’, in Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson (eds.) The Myths We Live By , Routledge, 1990
POSTMAN Amusing: Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Methuen, 1987
ROBERTS ‘Introduction’: Andrew Roberts, Introduction to Andrew Roberts (ed.), What Might Have Been, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004
ROSENFELD ‘Reflections’: Gavriel Rosenfeld, ‘Why Do We Ask "What If?" Reflections on the Function of Alternate History’, History and Theory, No 41, December 2002
RUBINSTEIN Capitalism: W D Rubinstein, Capitalism, Culture, and Decline in Britain 1750 - 1990, Routledge, 1993
RUBINSTEIN'Interview': W D Rubinstein,‘Interview’, in Richard English and Michael Kenny (eds.), Rethinking British Decline, Macmillan, 2000
SAMUEL 'Heritage': Raphael Samuel, ‘Heritage-Baiting’, in Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory , Verso, 1994
SAMUEL 'LWBC 1' Samuel 1985: Raphael Samuel, ‘The Lost World of British Communism’, New Left Review, No 154, November/December 1985
SAMUEL 'LWBC 2' Samuel 1986: Raphael Samuel, ‘Staying Power: The Lost World of British Communism, Part Two’, New Left Review, No 156, March/April 1986
SAMUEL LWBC3: Raphael Samuel, ‘Class Politics: The Lost World of British Communism, Part Three’, New Left Review, No 165, September/October 1987
SCHUMPETER Capitalism: Joseph A Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, George Allen & Unwin, 1976
SHERBORNE Notes : Michael Sherborne, Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - Notes Longman, 2005
SHERIDAN Foucault: Alan Sheridan, Michel Foucault – The Will to Truth, Tavistock, 1982
THOMPSONE P Morris: E P Thompson, William Morris, Pantheon Books, 1976
WEEKS'Fabians': Jeffrey Weeks, ‘The Fabians and Utopia’, in Ben Pimlott (ed.), Fabian Essays in Socialist Thought, Heinemann, 1984
WiEner M English: Martin J. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit: 1850 -1980, CUP, 1981
WIENER M'Interview': Martin Wiener,Interview’, in Richard English and Michael Kenny (eds.), Rethinking British Decline, Macmillan, 2000
WILLIAMS Culture: Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, Penguin, 1961
WILLIAMS Orwell: Raymond Williams, Orwell, Fontana, 1974
WILLIAMS Politics: Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters, NLB, 1979
WRIGHT Living: Patrick Wright, On Living in an Old Country, Verso, 1985