Raymond Williams possessed unique authority as Britain’s foremost cultural theorist and public intellectual. Informed by an unparalleled range of reference and the resources of deep personal experience, his life’s work represents a patient, exemplary commitment to the building of a socialist future.
This book brings together important early writings including “Culture is Ordinary,” “The British Left,” “Welsh Culture” and “Why Do I Demonstrate?” with major essays and talks of the last decade. It includes work on such central themes as the nature of a democratic culture, the value of community, Green socialism, the nuclear threat, and the relation between the state and the arts. Here too, collected for the first time, are the important later political essays which undertake a thorough revaluation of the principles fundamental to the idea of socialist democracy, and confirm Williams as a shrewd and imaginative political theorist. In a sober yet constructive assessment of the possibilities for socialist advance, Williams—in the face of much recent intellectual fashion—powerfully reasserts his lifelong commitment to “making hope practical, rather than despair convincing.”
This valuable collection confirms Raymond Williams as a thinker of rare versatility and one of the outstanding intellectuals of our century.
Published in 2000, Without Guarantees — edited by Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie — brings together more than 30 essays inspired by, or written in honor of, the great cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who died three years ago this week. "It is appropriate," the editors write in their preface:
given the spirit of Stuart's own commitments that this volume has a second, subsidiary purpose. Cultural studies have been subjected to much abuse lately and the fragile institutional initiatives with which those words are entangled are now under great and growing pressure. In these circumstances it seemed right to try to make this public gift a modest interventionist act in its own right. Here then are some implicit and explicit reflections on what cultural studies can be and what it might become.
Below, we present one of the essays collected in the volume: Wendy Brown's now classic reflection on Hall and the condition that Walter Benjamin termed "left melancholia." First published in boundary 2 in 1999, Brown's essay spurred a debate that has continued through the present day.
via Stuart Hall Foundation
“In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. ... only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”1 Walter Benjamin
It has become commonplace to lament the current beleaguered and disoriented condition of the Left. Stuart Hall is among the few who have tried to diagnose the sources and dynamics of this condition. From the earliest days of the rise of the Thatcher-Reagan-Gingrich Right in Europe and North America, Hall insisted that the “crisis of the Left” in the late twentieth century was due neither to internal divisions in the activist or academic Left nor to the clever rhetoric or funding schemes of the Right. Rather, he charged, this ascendency was consequent to the Left's own failure to apprehend the character of the age, and to develop a political critique and a moral-political vision appropriate to this character.
Raymond Williams, who died on this day in 1988, was one of Britain's foremost Marxist theorists. His pioneering work was foundational for the development of cultural studies. In this essay, originally published in New Left Review in 1973, just before the publication of The Country and the City, and included in the collection Culture and Materialism, charts some of the problems of the nascent discipline. The essay sees Williams trying to overcome the relationship between the determined superstructure and the determining base of mechanical materialism.