Posts Tagged 'culture'

Stalin and Shostakovich, by Solomon Volkov

This account of the perilous, unremitting battles between Stalin and Shostakovich charts an engrossing history which extends well beyond the book’s protagonists. Lacking incisive political perspective, Volkov nonetheless unearths a wealth of detail on the whole structure of state-regulated cultural production during the Stalin era. With disaster an ever-present threat, figures such as Shostakovich, Eisenstein and Pasternak engaged in a compex set of cat-and-mouse relations: often barely surviving through a combination of guile and Stalin’s uncertain desire for international recognition. Incorporating fascinating analysis of Shostakovich’s key works, Volkov’s readable fusion of the musicological and the social is a clear success. AB

Little, Brown and Company; 2004; 384 pages

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The Meaning of Race: Race, History, and Culture in Western Society, by Kenan Malik

Malik’s study is an awesome and challenging counter-narrative of the history of ‘race’. He charts how the notion originated and developed through slavery and colonialism and the ways in which it was formalised via a scientific discourse. So far, so familiar. Malik’s originality lies in his bravura conclusion: he demonstrates how in the post-war era the discredited idea of ‘race’ was transmogrified into the equally tenuous notion of ‘culture’ and, even more ephemerally, ‘ethnicity’, serving merely as codes for the unscientific concept of ‘race’. Usefully, this thought-provoking work powerfully emphasises the strategic dead-end of identity politics and multiculturalism as ideology. SS

Palgrave Macmillan; 1996; 336 pages

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, by Joe Bageant

With compelling anecdotes, Bageant illustrates the complicated circumstances of the lives of the working poor in the American south, who vote for politicians who undermine their economic and social freedoms. These stories are by turns funny and sad, almost always compassionate but sometimes ruthless as Bageant explores issues such as evangelical religion, anti-union sentiment, right-wing grassroots efforts, gun control, health care, and televised sports as the opiate of the masses. The first half of the book is especially strong in its analysis of the class struggle — not so much one class against another, as one class struggling to survive. MEL

Three Rivers Press; 2008; 288 pages


Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell

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