Monday, August 04, 2008
Collini, Stefan. "Upwards and Onwards." LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS July 31, 2008.
Smith, Dai. Raymond Williams: a Warrior's Tale. Carmarthen: Parthian, 2008. If Williams could at one point have been seen as ‘the English Lukács’, not least for his sustained engagement with the historical place of literary realism, he now came to be seen as ‘the English Goldmann’ or even ‘the English Bourdieu’ (such labels always exhibited a disregard for the fact that he was not English, as he pointed out with increasing insistence). And indeed, since cultural materialism’s attentiveness to non-literary contexts and its repudiation of ‘evaluative criticism’ was seen by many to have affinities with the academically still more powerful school of New Historicism, Williams could even be classified, at least when seen down the wrong end of a transatlantic telescope, as ‘the English Greenblatt’. Fortunately, his standing was never confined to the world of academic literary studies. His work, early and late, on ‘communications’, especially television, meant that he was a constant point of reference in the fast expanding field of Media Studies (‘the English McLuhan’), just as several of his books from Culture and Society onwards were regarded as founding texts, although frequently repudiated, in the diverse field, or movement, now established as Cultural Studies (‘the English Gramsci’). And, of course, his more directly political writing always engaged with a much wider, non-academic, left-leaning public, to whom he spoke inspiringly of the continuing value of ‘community’, of the imperative to pursue a thoroughgoing democratisation of economic and cultural as well as political institutions, and of the need to cultivate ‘resources for a journey of hope’ towards a possible form of socialism (‘the English Habermas’?). In his concern with the natural environment, especially in the form of the relations between country and city, he provided the elements from which a ‘Green Williams’ could be constructed, just as his reflections on the consequences of colonial settlement and cultural dominance, here drawing explicitly on his Welshness, could even be made to yield a sketch of a ‘post-colonial Williams’. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n15/coll01_.html.