A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain

The urban state of the nation—from Olympic dreams to broken Britain

This is what austerity looks like: a nation surviving on the results of what conservatives privately call “the progressive nonsense” of the Big Society agenda.

In a journey that begins and ends in the capital, but takes in Belfast, Aberdeen, Plymouth and Brighton, Hatherley explores modern Britain’s urban landscape and finds a short-sighted disarray of empty buildings, malls and glass towers. Yet while A New Kind of Bleak anatomizes “broken Britain,” Hatherley also looks to a hopeful future and discovers fragments of what it might look like.

Illustrated by Laura Oldfield Ford, author and artist of Savage Messiah.


  • “A humanely barbed Nikolaus Pevsner for our times ... This book should be required reading for planners, developers and architects.”
  • “Hatherley has busily constructed a cult reputation as the angry young man of architectural criticism.”
  • “Engaging, fearless and startlingly intelligent polemicist.”
  • “Essential reading for anyone who ever feels their blood start to boil when they hear the word ‘regeneration.’ ”
  • “Owen Hatherley brings to bear a quizzing eye, venomous wit, supple prose, refusal to curry favour, rejection of received ideas, exhaustive knowledge and all-round bolshiness.”
  • “Fierce and original.”
  • “He writes with venom and flare... [It is] refreshing to see politics reintroduced to the architectural debate.”
  • “[A] bracing antidote to the faux-chumminess of so much British cultural discourse.”
  • “A timely counterpoint to Britain’s jubilee and Olympics self-congratulation... observed with a precision and fury to force you to open your eyes.”
  • “Hatherley’s astute and provocative analysis reaches deep into many of the inequalities that exist for the 80 per cent of us who live in urban areas”


  • 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.”

    Continue Reading

  • 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.

    Continue Reading

  • Philosophy Football - January Competition!

    Enter this month's competition to win Philosophy Football's new Eton Rifles T-shirt and a copy of four of the outfitter's favorites from Verso's 2012 catalogues.

    The self-styled "sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction," aka Philosophy Football, recently launched the Eton Rifles T- shirt. The song Eton Rifles was cited by David Cameron as one of his favorites, the lines of which include:

    Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse
    Tore down the House of Commons in your brand new shoes

    "Which part of it didn't he get?" Paul Weller responded, "It wasn't intended as a f-ing jolly drinking song for the cadet corps." Weller has since not been awarded a knighthood in the New Years Honors List.

    We have five of the T-shirts to be won in the January competition, with one lucky winner also getting a copy of School Wars, The Rebirth of History, A New Kind Of Bleak and In Defense of The Terror.

    To enter simply answer this question: Eton Rifles was inspired by Eton schoolboys abusing an early 1980s Right to Work March. In the 1930s the Communist Party led a mass movement against unemployment spearheaded by the Hunger Marches. These marches and the direct action that supported them were organised by the NUWM- what did the letters 'NUWM" stand for?

    Email your answer with your full name, address and preferred T-shirt size to admin@philosophyfootball.com. No purchase necessary to enter. Entries close 31 January 2013.

Other books by Owen Hatherley