Perspectives on the UK General Election

by Elliot Murphy

The success of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens is strong evidence that building left alternatives is much more effective when done outside of Labour, not within it. Efforts to combat climate change may well be, simultaneously, the anti-austerity and anti-establishment driving force that British politics is in dire need of. The two things must surely go hand in hand. If not, then the resulting environmental cataclysm will drown out all the major ideological debates about people vs profit, independence vs unionism and socialism vs neoliberalism, and the only remaining social agenda will be survival. [read full essay]

Parallel Lives

Brian Unwin, A Tale in Two Cities: Fanny Burney and Adèle, Comtesse de Boigne

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The novelist Fanny Burney was the second daughter of the musicologist Charles Burney. Born in 1752, she had a typical Georgian upbringing, with virtually nothing in the way of an education, muddling her way through in later life to an appetite for literature and the ambition to write. Her father’s connections to the metropolitan theatre world of Drury Lane, where he moved the family after inauspicious beginnings in King’s Lynn, introduced her to the cultural luminaries of Hanoverian London... [read more]

Agamben’s Cat-and-Mouse Game

Jenny Doussan, Time, Language, and Visuality in Agamben’s Philosophy

reviewed by Alex Fletcher

To borrow Foucault’s quip that this century would become known as ‘Deleuzian’, one could argue that the last few years – or decade, perhaps – would in fact be better titled Agambanien. Both celebrated and reviled, Giorgio Agamben’s prominence in contemporary philosophy and political theory cannot be denied. Although often (uncritically) cited in fields such as aesthetics, art theory/history, and visual culture, there is little sustained critical engagement with the philosopher’s... [read more]

Between Discipline and Practice

Warren Carter, Barnaby Haran & Frederic J. Schwartz (eds.), ReNew Marxist Art History

reviewed by Tom Hastings

ReNew Marxist Art History comprises a collection of new essays by scholars at work in the expanded field of Art History. Its title presents the reader with a body of writing and a choice. Either one traces a specific way of thinking about art’s relation to history and criticism from its base in Marx, through the development of a ‘School’ during the Interwar period, to its fragmentation under the energetic promise of the New Left and total subsumption under explosive currents of strong... [read more]

Interpreting Sontag

Jonathan Cott, Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview

reviewed by Marika Lysandrou

Against being ‘ghettoized’ as a female writer; against demagogic interpretations; against ‘digging’ behind works of art to find their true meaning; against viewing the act of taking a photograph as innocent of its didactic purpose – Susan Sontag certainly expressed formidable ideas in her various critical works. The Complete Rolling Stone Interview, which is a transcription of over three hours’ of conversation between Jonathan Cott, editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and Susan... [read more]

Pushing Labour Leftwards?

Arthur Stanley Newens, In Quest of a Fairer Society: My Life and Politics

reviewed by Ian Birchall

The recent death of Tony Benn prompted the question: what has happened to the Labour left? A similar question is posed by the autobiography of Stan Newens. Newens was a Labour MP from 1964 to 1970, and again from 1974 to 1983; after that he was for fifteen years a Member of the European Parliament. His memoirs, clearly based on detailed notes, record his activities over several decades; to someone like myself, a little younger than Newens and a rank-and-file activist, they provide a fascinating... [read more]

Looking Through the Window

Patrick Keiller, The View From The Train: Cities & Other Landscapes

reviewed by David Anderson

A train is an extraordinary bundle of relations because it is something through which one goes, it is also something by means of which one can go from one point to another, and then it is also something that goes by. Michel Foucault's 1967 sketch of the ‘heterotopia’ identified one of rail travel's peculiar qualities: that mixture of attachment and detachment with the world outside the window. It's not dissimilar from what Michel de Certeau had to say in The Practice of Everyday Life,... [read more]

What Is The State?

Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

In the quest for the clearest exemplification of Louis Althusser’s conceptualisation of the State, as formulated in On the Reproduction of Capitalism, one could do much worse than to settle on the Mark Duggan case. Duggan, as is now well known, was executed on the streets of London by officers of the Metropolitan Police. The Met, ensured that their public relations operation went into overdrive immediately, putting out a systematic campaign of disinformation. In the immediacy of the event,... [read more]

‘The finest books are those which have the least subject matter’

Michael Sayeau, Against the Event: The Everyday and the Evolution of Modernist Narrative

reviewed by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Michael Sayeau’s Against the Event: the Everyday and Evolution of Modernist Narrative is an intensive study into the way the event shapes and constructs narrative in the modernist movement. Sayeau blends contextual socio-political details that informs modernism as a whole, with analysis of the structural imperatives he finds in modernist texts to suggest the inextricable relationship between the event in the life of the subject and the event in the scope of society. The introduction... [read more]

What Survives

Morrissey, Autobiography

reviewed by Nicolas Padamsee

The contours of life are not the contours of art: the former coils, the latter arrows. We wend our way forwards with caducuous dreams, stop-start careers and capricious slews, whereas (successful) fictional characters follow a lodestar – their motivations fixed, their attachments delineated, their nadirs and their peaks manifest. For this is what lures us to films and novels: definiteness, the placement of pattern. So. What then of the autobiography? Well, the salient lure is... [read more]

The phallus par excellence

EDA Collective, Why Are Animals Funny? Everyday Analysis: Volume 1

reviewed by Jamie Mackay

Research culture in the humanities has always been elitist, but never has it been so cut-throat and drained of vitality. While established thinkers cling to their hard-earned brands a new generation of dialecticians fight tooth and nail over raw morsels of funding, their self-esteem secured only by conservative dreams of more bloody and radical days. The university is a depressing place to do theory. So often friendships are left to a series of ‘what if’s as groups are torn apart by... [read more]