Condition Of Britain
Introducing the four pieces that follow, by Peter Wollen, Raymond Williams, Eric Hobsbawm and Ralph Miliband, commissioned by the Italian communist Giorgio Fanti for a special issue of Il contemporaneo on the state of Britain. Retranslated by NLR, they are published here for the first time in English.
Society: New and Old
How far did Britain’s class structure alter in the sixties, with the onset of the ‘affluent society’? As counterpoint to prevalent myths and pieties, Hobsbawm supplies a mordant panorama of shifting habits and customs against a backdrop of polarized class and cultural divergence.
Theatre and the Novel
Anatomization of the fifties and sixties generations of British novelists—Amis, Wain, Golding, Murdoch, Lessing—and playwrights: Osborne, Wesker, Delaney, Pinter, with new forms emerging from the conservatism of the early Cold War years across the crux of 1956.
The Bourgeois Nemesis
In 1964, NLR produced a set of texts aiming to explain the crisis-ridden state of post-war Britain by analysing the unique class compact that governed its longstanding capitalist regime. Behind the Nairn–Anderson theses stood an earlier formulation of these ideas, ‘La Nemesi borghese’, published by Nairn in the Italian Marxist journal Il Contemporaneo, appearing here for the first time in English.
The Meanings of Brexit
There has been remarkably little discussion of what Brexit means in theoretical terms for attempts to understand the limits of present-day national sovereignty and the character of the EU. In the first of two contributions on these questions, Cunliffe asks why UK politics has changed so little since ‘taking back control’.
Two Atlantic Lefts
The legacies of the Sanders and Corbyn waves include new cohorts of democratic-socialist elected representatives. As a provisional synecdoche for the electoral turn, Caitlín Doherty examines the records to date of the Democrat ‘Squad’ on Capitol Hill and their Labour equivalents at Westminster.
Roadmaps after Corbyn
Examination of the UK’s dominant political cultures, social liberalism and national conservatism, battling for hegemony within and between the major parties, and buffeted by economic storms. A sober reckoning with the lessons of Corbynism and hopes invested in an unreformable Labour Party.
A comparative engagement with Tom Hazeldine’s The Northern Question, setting the trajectory of England’s former industrial powerhouse against that of Belgium’s Wallonia. Rustbelt regions, embedded in national contexts beset by persistent geographical polarizations, yet stubbornly consequential for their political outcomes.
Beset by simultaneous crises of class, state and nation, is the UK once again haunted by the spectre of decline? Perry Anderson presents an analysis spanning economy, polity, ideology, territory and diplomacy, testing how far the successive theses offered by NLR can be brought to bear on the present moment.
Britain’s Decade of Crisis
Boris Johnson’s ‘Get Brexit Done’ victory set in the context of the multiple crises that have roiled the UK since its financial bubble burst in 2008—economic, social, regional, national, European—to which the new Tory ascendancy poses as solution.
After decades of hawkish neoliberalism, the British Labour Party has become the stage for an unprecedented experiment. To what extent has Corbyn’s leadership been able to transform Blair’s party into a vehicle for egalitarian renewal? Can his project survive the maelstrom of the UK’s Brexit crisis?
A Tory Tribune?
Francis Mulhern on Ferdinand Mount, English Voices: Lives, Landscapes, Laments. The literary and political sensibility of Britain’s most independent-minded Conservative thinker, aide to Margaret Thatcher, admirer of Virginia Woolf, and devotee of William Gladstone.
Revolt of the Rustbelt
The historical geography of Ukania’s referendum on the EU, pitting London and Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, against every region of England outside its pampered capital. The North as fulcrum of the victory for Leave, the accumulating reasons for its disaffection with the Westminster establishment, and the carry-through of its rebellion into the electoral upset of 2017.
The New Neoliberalism
If the ruling economic paradigm remains traceable to Mont Pèlerin, how to distinguish the present from the moment that brought Thatcher and Reagan to power? A periodization of neoliberalism, from anti-socialist insurgency, through centre-left stewardship, to the inchoate ideologies of the post-crash era.
How to assess the latest set-back for the European Union: the vote to leave by its second-largest state? Complex determinants of the Brexit protest—party-political contingencies played out against topographies of class and sub-national disaffection—met by single-minded condemnation of it by the global elite.
A Scottish Watershed
Analysis of Scotland’s independence referendum and the hollowing of Labour’s electoral hegemony north of the border, after its lead role in the Unionist establishment’s Project Fear. What tectonic shifts have brought the UK’s archaic, multinational-monarchical state to the fore, as focus for an unprecedented mass politicization?
Culture and Society, Then and Now
The idea of culture in Raymond Williams’s classic work, and discrepant readings of it, fifty years on. Gestation amid CP debates on the English tradition, hidden affinities with the Frankfurt School, and counterposition to the verities of today’s liberal multiculturalism.
The Myth of Anglophone Succession
How far are the systems of British and American international power historically comparable? Can the imperium presided over by Clinton and Blair be regarded as essentially a sequel to the Victorian order guided by Palmerston or Salisbury, or does it represent something quite new—the first true hegemony in history?
Farewell Britannia: Break-Up or New Union?
Has the Northern Ireland Agreement injected a fatal shot of constitutionalism into the archaic Ukanian state? Responding to Pocock and Mulhern, Tom Nairn looks forward to a rearrangement of islander relations, but warns that without its own reconstitution England could become a fatally regressive anomaly in the archipelago.