Making Sense of Thatcherism and Crime

by Stephen Farrall

Crime was a topic which Thatcher often referred to, especially during the 1979 general election campaign when she frequently talked about people wanting to feel safe walking the streets. She also favoured the use of corporal punishment and voted to bring back hanging whenever there was a vote on the topic in the Houses of Parliament. But in practice, her governments were not known for being especially ‘tough’ on crime. The memoirs of successive Home Secretaries in the 1980s reveal that Thatcher was content to leave them to run the Home Office and to bring forth whichever sorts of acts they wished to – despite the fact that crime rose during the 1980s in a dramatic fashion. [read full essay]

Inside the Space of the Frame

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

reviewed by Sarah Emily Duff

The idea that only white men are capable of producing the Great American Novel remains oddly persistent. When Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was published four years ago, the author appeared on the cover of Time, confidently labelled the Great American Novelist. As many pointed out, other novels by women which appeared at the same time could just as easily be held up as capturing something essential about early 21st-century American life: Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the... [read more]

Theatre as Provocation

Alain Badiou, Rhapsody for the Theatre

reviewed by Luke Davies

The central claim of Alain Badiou's 1990 philosophical treatise Rhapsody for the Theatre, reprinted here with additional material, is that 'cultural-political intervention [...] has only one possible destination: the theatre.’  That will sound unlikely to anyone familiar with the dreary and anodyne fare of, for example, mainstream contemporary British theatre, which is mostly either lifestyle porn or pseudo-intellectual fodder. But Badiou isn't talking about the orthodoxy, referred... [read more]
 

A Banquet of Canapés

Lynne Segal, Out of Time: The Pleasures and the Perils of Ageing

reviewed by Gee Williams

In 1996, Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ was voted the most popular post-war poem by BBC viewers and listeners. When I am old I shall wear purple has spoken to at least two more generations since its 1961 birth. It spoke to me once. It said there’s one less thing to worry about then. Reading Segal’s dense literature search on the same subject left me with a strong need to check back with Joseph. (Find her, now eightysomething, reading it on YouTube. I did.) Maybe a fan letter is... [read more]

Leaving For Good

Eimear McBride, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

Fear death by drowning – an extreme unction – an atheistic, watery reminder of one’s life, no oily, priestly redemption at the end, all one’s life, every sordid detail revealed, purposeless, without reason. If the whirlpool miraculously pops me back up for air, should I share my life review? And why? And how? As soon as she’s born, Eimear McBride’s ‘half-formed girl’ knows dying – her brother, three years older than her, has a brain tumour. Attention is on him, and on her... [read more]
 

Political Cinema After Politics

Angelos Koutsourakis, Politics as Form in Lars von Trier: A Post-Brechtian Reading

reviewed by Andrew Marzoni

‘What can I say? I understand Hitler,’ said Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, at a press conference during the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where his film Melancholia was screened for competition. As he stutters on, describing how he can ‘see Hitler in his bunker’ despite his having done ‘some wrong things,’ identifying himself as a Nazi while insisting that he is ‘not against Jews,’ Melancholia’s star, Kirsten Dunst, shifts uncomfortably in her chair, rolling her eyes, laughing... [read more]

Mass Culture and Working Class Longing

Fred Inglis, Richard Hoggart: Virtue and Reward

reviewed by Benedict Clarke

In ‘Culture is Ordinary’ (1958), a short essay which was to become tremendously influential in the development of cultural studies, Raymond Williams wrote: There is a distinct working-class way of life, which I for one value - not only because I was bred in it, for I now, in certain respects, live differently. I think this way of life, with its emphases of neighbourhood, mutual obligation, and common betterment, as expressed in the great working-class political and industrial... [read more]
 

Teeming, Disordered and Sexually Charged

Vic Gatrell, The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age

reviewed by Nell Stevens

In The Practice of Everyday Life (1980), Michel de Certeau ruminates on the significance of footsteps. Gazing down at 1970s Manhattan from the World Trade Center, de Certeau sees how ‘their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces,’ and ‘weave places together.’ It’s an image that returned to my mind as I read Vic Gatrell’s The First Bohemians, an account of 18th-century Covent Garden, where artists, thieves and prostitutes intermingled, created, drank and died. Gatrell’s... [read more]

‘A lot of smug, half-assed conceptual gestures'

Ben Davis, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class: And Other Writings

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Ben Davis is a New York art critic who has written for Village Voice and Slate, and is currently executive editor of artinfo.com. His most striking contribution to the debate about the role of the visual arts in the age of neoliberalism has been a pamphlet of 2010 that forms the title piece of this debut publication. Written in tabular form, like Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, it sets out a series of back-to-basics propositions about the social role of art and artists from a... [read more]
 

Extractive Institutions

David Blacker, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame

reviewed by Calum Watt

Last November saw the coalition government privatise almost £900 million of student debt. The debt comprised loans taken out during the 1990s, and so represents only a small portion of the total value of student loans. This total is estimated at £40 billion, all of which the government has indicated it plans to sell off. If you think this is just another innocuous step in the government’s project of ‘reducing the deficit’, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame may be... [read more]

Philosophy’s Unworkable Poles

Andrew Bowie, Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy

reviewed by Tom Hastings

In Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy Andrew Bowie attempts several, equally ambitious things. Firstly, a synoptic reading of the state of contemporary philosophy details the ways in which the idealist traditions Theodor Adorno spent his writing life attacking have suffered a radical narrowing of perspective in recent decades. Bowie’s central claim is that aspects of Adorno’s work deemed too difficult or exaggerated to implement practically in philosophical debates, might be reclaimed to... [read more]