R. Baxter Miller
Within a rich cultural and political context, Miller proposes that as the centuries turned and the nation became more diverse, the great Chicago Renaissances—especially the literary and cultural ones—never really ended. The nation’s cities simply became more richly complexioned and culturally nuanced. Hence, the great Popular and Cultural Fronts of the thirties resurfaced as the innovative Black Arts Movement of the late sixties and early seventies. By the last third of the Twentieth Century, Chicago epitomized a dynamism among several of the most gifted African American writers in the nation's history. In addition to Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright, these figures included Lorraine Hansberry, and, yes, the nearly forgotten Ronald L. Fair. As a whole, the four recentered the locus of literary artistry in the United States. Though the great trace of African American literary imagination had nearly always led through the Harlem Renaissance of 1920s New York, a new trajectory took a decisive turn toward the Great Lakes. It has taken until the early decades of the 21st century to realize that the cultural map of the last hundred years had already changed. This book, a startling epiphany of post-modern American culture, will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in national politics and history as well as bold innovations in literary form.
In this twenty-fifth anniversary edition of The Break-Up of Britain Tom Nairn reviews the arguments of his classic study and expands his thesis into the new millennium.
Michel Foucault once expressed his disagreement with the “breach” between social history and the history of ideas brought about by the assumption that the former is concerned with how people act without thinking, while the latter analyses how people think without acting. “People both think and act”, he says, by way of a sarcasm consisting in having to point out the obvious.
While in complete agreement with Foucault on this as on several other issues, the author of this book chooses to emphasise another “obviousness” of at least equal importance: that thoughts and (material) actions may well be inseparable in all fields of human/social existence, but they are not the same thing. The maintenance of the distinction between subjectivity/conceptuality on one hand and objectivity/materiality on the other constitutes a fundamental premise for the book’s two closely interrelated goals: to criticise certain extremely influential currents of contemporary thought more or less loosely associated with “poststructuralism” and/or “postmodernism” which, each in its own fashion, have served to undermine this distinction; and to provide a philosophical/theoretical grounding for the methodology of the social sciences known as “discourse analysis”. The importance of the latter is shown to consist in forming a methodological framework for a materialist critique that would escape both the economic reductionism of Marxism and the implicit (or manifest) idealism pertaining to all variations of Hegelianism.