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The Enchanted Glass: Britain and Its Monarchy

The acclaimed anatomy of Britain’s relationship with its monarchy, by the foremost historian of nationalism.
In this acclaimed study of British statehood, identity and culture, Tom Nairn deftly dispels the conviction that the Royal Family is nothing more than an amusing relic of feudalism or a mere tourist attraction. Instead, he argues that the monarchy is both apex and essence of the British state, the symbol of a national backwardness. In this fully updated edition, Nairn’s powerful and bitterly comic prose lays bare Britain’s peculiar, pseudo-modern, national identity—which remains stubbornly fixated on the Crown and its constitutional framework, the “parliamentary sovereignty” of Westminster.

Reviews

  • “A long and brilliant meditation on the nature of the British state, its identity and national culture ... one of the most powerful and original pieces of writing I have ever read on the subject.”
  • “An ambitious and ruthless dissection of the most down-market comic opera of our age.”
  • “Dazzling, cliché-nailing ... The first serious study for more than a hundred years to take a coldly analytical look at this most emotion-charged part of our heritage, it reflects a growing sense of the peculiarity of it all.”

Blog

  • Your country needs you!: Responses to the World War I Centenary

    National commemorations of major historical events usually offer an incredible opportunity for the Right to showcase its jingoistic logorrhea about national identity and patriotism. Starting this coming August, the First World War centenary will most likely be no exception.

    The Conservatives are battling on two different, though not unrelated, fronts. Contrary to what Max Hastings argues, it is the Right indeed who is “making an ideological argument out of World War I, as it does out of almost everything else in history.”

    In a Telegraph article, David Cameron puts particular emphasis on commemorating, and even celebrating the break-out of World War I as a moment of national unity and cohesion, “a fundamental part of our national consciousness.”

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  • The welfare state we’re in – A reading list for the present class war



    In the UK this month austerity has revealed itself to be in the mode of naked class war. Monday began with welfare reforms, the introduction of the notorious bedroom tax and reductions in the access to Legal Aid. These attacks will be followed in the coming weeks by the replacing of disability living allowance with a personal independence payment policed by Atos, the reduction in the 50p tax rate (providing tax cuts to the rich) and the introduction of the controversial Universal Credit scheme. Combined with other aspects of late capitalism (from food prices to housing shortages) the reality of life in austerity Britain is uglier than it has been for some time.

    With textbook ideological manoeuvring these assaults have been accompanied by a rhetoric designed to divide the working classes between “workers and shirkers.” To the chorus of the right wing press, statements, such as this one by Liam Fox or this from Iain Duncan Smith, ultimately aim to crush the possibility of an organized resistance. Most revealing this week has been efforts by the right wing to frame the horrific Philpott manslaughter as a result of ‘benefit dependency.’ Almost beyond belief, this story’s beginnings in the Daily Mail and right wing blogs were reinforced yesterday with this statement from the grubbiest man on earth: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

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  • A Reading List for the Olympics: Part One

    Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague Marc Perelman

    Perelman’s book takes a subversive look at sport and global sporting events such as the Olympics to reveal their darker side. He argues that sport has become an instrument of political control and a vehicle for capitalist monoculture.  This timely polemic offers refreshing reading to those looking for an antidote to this summer’s Olympian frenzy. 

    Cities Under Siege: The New Military UrbanismStephen Graham

    This authoritative study examines the rapid and dangerous spread and normalization of surveillance and state policing in western cities and warzones alike under the guise of national security.  As such it provides an unsettling and provocative insight into the global backdrop of the rising costs and militarization of London’s Olympic Games security operation. 

    A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban BritainOwen Hatherley

    Hatherley’s critical tour of Britain’s urban centres incorporates the latest and most high profile attempt at regeneration offering a carefully considered indictment of the architectural and social failures of Stratford’s Olympic sites.

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Other books by Tom Nairn