Tony Wood on Aleksandr Etkind, Tolkovanie puteshestvii. Rossiia i Amerika v travelogakh i intertekstakh. Russo-American literary–political relations, from Pushkin to Ayn Rand, in an ingeniously conciliatory mirror.
At the end of the first part of Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville arrived at the famous conclusion that ‘there are on earth today two great peoples . . . the Russians and the Americans’—and, in seeming anticipation of the Cold War, suggested that ‘each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe’. Nor was the juxtaposition simply guided by landmass or population: America and Russia represented two opposed political and social structures for Tocqueville, the one an energetic ferment of democratic practices, the other the domain of unending tyranny and mute servility.
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Lives of Jughashvili
Tony Wood on Stephen Kotkin, Stalin, Volume I and Oleg Khlevniuk, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Contrasting portrayals of the ‘man of steel’.
Reserve Armies of the Imagination
Tony Wood on Hito Steyerl, The Wretched of the Screen. Dilemmas of representation—aesthetic and political—in the age of the super-abundant image.
Collapse as Crucible
While Russia’s anti-Putin demonstrations have prompted talk of a civic awakening—led by a flat-pack middle class—the country’s overall social landscape remains largely unmapped. Tony Wood surveys its shifting structures since the Soviet collapse, and the consequences of marketization’s advance through the USSR’s ruins.
Silver and Lead
Tony Wood on Anabel Hernández, Los señores del narco. The structures of political complicity and corruption that have fuelled Mexico’s drug wars.
Good Riddance to New Labour
As the British general election approaches, a balance-sheet of New Labour’s thirteen years in office. The record of Blair and Brown—imperial wars abroad, subservience to the City at home—as so many reasons to cheer their downfall.
Latin America Tamed?
Tony Wood on Michael Reid, Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul. A revised neoliberal gospel for the region, courtesy of the Economist.
Contours of the Putin Era
Responding to Vladimir Popov, Tony Wood examines the geographical and social distribution of Russia’s recent economic growth. What are the priorities and outlook of the emerging business-state elite—and whom will Putin’s ‘stabilization’ benefit?
Celluloid and Plasma
Tony Wood on Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second. How has the digital era changed the cinematic viewing experience—and the spectator? Freeze-frame fetishism and narrative disruption from Lumière to Kiarostami, via Hitchcock and Rossellini.
Annals of Utopia
Tony Wood on Andrey Platonov, Happy Moscow and Soul. Recently discovered works by the neglected giant of twentieth-century Russian letters. The singular language and multiple ambiguities of Platonov’s style, and heroic impasses of his life and times.
The Case for Chechnya
Eager to embrace Putin, Western rulers and pundits continue to connive at the Russian occupation of Chechnya, as Moscow’s second murderous war in the Caucasus enters its sixth year. Traditions of resistance, popular demands for sovereignty and Russia’s brutal military response, in Europe’s forgotten colony.
Tony Wood on Corinne Diserens, ed., Gordon Matta-Clark. Dissections of architectural space in the 60s and 70s, and their meaning in contemporary criticism. Did Matta-Clark’s disappearing art works leave behind a radical grin?