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The Ministry of Nostalgia: Consuming Austerity

Why should we have to “Keep Calm and Carry On”?
In this brilliant polemical rampage, Owen Hatherley shows how our past is being resold in order to defend the indefensible. From the marketing of a “make do and mend” aesthetic to the growing nostalgia for a utopian past that never existed, a cultural distraction scam prevents people grasping the truth of their condition.

The Ministry of Nostalgia explodes the creation of a false history: a rewriting of the austerity of the 1940s and 1950s, which saw the development of a welfare state while the nation crawled out of the devastations of war. This period has been recast to explain and offer consolation for the violence of neoliberalism, an ideology dedicated to the privatisation of our common wealth.

In coruscating prose—with subjects ranging from Ken Loach’s documentaries, Turner Prize–shortlisted video art, London vernacular architecture, and Jamie Oliver’s cooking—Hatherley issues a passionate challenge to the injunction to keep calm and carry on.

Reviews

  • “A brave, incisive, elegant and erudite writer, whose books dissect the contemporary built environment to reveal the political fantasies and social realities it embodies.”
  • “A lively and gleefully argumentative book. Even when you disagree with Hatherley, he remains interesting. And there is a good chance, depressingly, that he is right about everything.”
  • “[Owen Hatherley] combines analysis of the austerity nostalgia phenomenon with a parkour of film, art, graphic design, and especially architecture and urbanism, comparing romantic notions of wartime cohesion to the historical record.”
  • The Ministry of Nostalgia is a brisk and bracing polemic about Britain’s relationship with its recent history.... Any successful political project must address itself to what’s needed right now. Keeping calm and carrying on is about the worst possible response.”
  • “Reflective and intelligent.”
  • “Hatherley hunts down his sacred cows hungrily and with brio. It is a ride that you can enjoy even if you don’t agree with the direction in which we’re heading... good iconoclastic fun”
  • “Demonstrates the qualities of empathy and social conscience, combined with acute judgement, that confirms Owen Hatherley to the only true heir today of the great architectural critic Ian Nairn”

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