Tag Archives: Imprint Academic

The Political Art of Bob Dylan

bob

The Political Art of Bob Dylan
Edited by David Boucher & Gary Browning
Imprint Academic – £14.95/$29.90

Everything he does is expression, eruption, explosion. This is the hottest crater of a volcanic epoch, spewing out the lava of its visions in unpredictable bursts with irresistible power, in the relentless swell of the inner fire.

His achievement in breathing new life into old art forms by the radical modification of form and content has inspired millions of people throughout the world and reminds us that art can still awaken a sense of resistance to the fatalistic surrender to the idea that there is no alternative to a ‘World Gone Wrong.’

                                                                        (‘Dylan’s Expressionist Period’)

Such is the case that Bob Dylan’s lyrical oeuvre is as equally grounded in ever changing fluidity as it is validity; and reading this most fascinating of books, re-alerts us to said oeuvre’s timely and altogether cohesive consistency. Indeed, The Political Art of Bob Dylan is something of a (political) reminder, as to how impatient and important so much of the songwriter’s work has been over the years and decades.

Not to mention intrinsically raw and close to the bone.

To quote the great Federicio Garcia Lorca, who is himself, quoted in the book’s final chapter ‘Images and Distorted Facts’: ”Poetry surrounds itself with brambles and fragments of broken glass so that the hands that reach out for it are cut and injured with love.”

Self-inflicted, yet cursed injury for thought perhaps, but when one’s work is examined within a complex sphere of the theoretical aesthetic, the sort of which encompasses the likes of Kant and Adorno, Collingwood and Lorca; one must invariably as well instinctively know one has arrived.

And for all intents and appreciative purposes, Dylan has continued to arrive, over and over if not over again.

For instance, one need only reflect upon how very little today’s United States has actually changed since the release of Dylan’s socially groundbreaking album, Highway 61 Revisited. An album, which, as Gary Browning substantiates in the book’s seventh chapter ‘Bob Dylan: (Post) Modern Times,’ more than told it as it needed to be told back then (and clearly still does now): ”It is an album that is a wholesale critique of the USA, its culture and values. The title track is a case in point. Highway 61, a highway running from North to South, is an image for the dead hand of the system, stretching throughout the USA. It is a metaphor for the power of the system; its linking and framing of America in the values sustained by corporate power […]. ‘The symbolic highway offers less potential for escape and more sense of cultural entrapment.’ The opening lines of the song ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ replay Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son at God’s command, just as in contemporary America the political fathers were sacrificing their sons in the Vietnam war. This slaughter of America’s sons is linked to an ineffectual welfare system, the straight-jacket of family values, and the commodification of everything, including nuclear war. Dylan recognises the systemic nature of the corruption and desolation in contemporary America. He does not offer an alternative social vision. He satirises mainstream society and in so doing implies an alternative, but individual vision.”

It is this very ”individual vision,” upon which a great seething plethora of Dylan books continue to be written and (quite often) devoured. In fact, another two new Dylan books are about to be published by Simon and Schuster at the end of this month: The Nobel Lecture and The Essential Interviews.

Although it does need to be said that what separates The Political Art of Bob Dylan from that of its competitors, is the degree to which is enriches our understanding of Dylan’s acute and very varied political work(s). A facet of the man which is on-going, never simple, yet fraught with a Burn Baby Burn like thinking. And Amen to that brother.

David Marx

 

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The Legendary Past

past

The Legendary Past –
Michael Oakeshott on Imagination and Political Identity
By Natalie Riendeau
Imprint-Academic – £30.00

In the modern world, as Oakeshott’s theory of modality implicitly recognizes, an irreducible plurality of viewpoints is the norm, but this plurality precludes the shared background he believed the Roman and Christian social myths had provided in ancient and medieval times. Hence, the possibility of maintaining the practical analogue of civil association, that is, government through the rule of law, is also adversely affected insofar as this depends on the existence of such a shared background.

(Legends of Political Life: Ancient Rome and Modern England)

Michael Oskeshott once declared that humans ”know who they are, where they are in the world and how they come to be there.” This might well be the case when it comes to normal people, normal, replete with a modicum of intellect.

Yet so far as Westminster is concerned, I’ve just read that a second Brexit Referendum may well soon be upon us; which, either by proxy or immense stupidity (or both), would wholeheartedly suggest that the so-called humans in charge of running Great Britain, have not an iota of a clue.

A sure-fire premise of a political persuasion, which looks set to continue ruining the lives of many millions -for many years to come. A fiasco of sorts, this book – which contends that political legends are imaginative constructs, poetic creations, which evoke an event from the practical past and allow societies to translate their political experience into the idiom of general ideas – does much to inadvertently shed some sort of abstract light on.

But where The Legendary Past – Michael Oakeshott on Imagination and Political Identity really comes to life, is amid its many provocative and social assertions, of which there are numerous.

For instance, the declaration that humans ”inhabit a mysterious and menacing universe for instance,” upon which authoress, Natalie Riendeau continues to write: ”while this might sound like a dramatic declaration […] a hyperbole the meaning of which may be easily dismissed or deemed to be only of relatively minor importance to his thought, such a conclusion would, in fact, be mistaken. The idea that humans are able to find their way in a menacing ad mysterious universe, more than this, that they are successful in making themselves at home in such a world, an achievement that paves the way for our ‘human living-together,’ to use Hannah Arendt’s expression, and consequently the political, is key to Oakeshott’s political thought.”

Hmm, human living-together, now there’s a concept (as well as an”expression”); especially given some of the raging conflicts currently taking place throughout the world – of which there really are far too many mention in a book review.

That said, when one places the above two strands of relative complex thinking side by side (Oakeshott’s and Arendt’s), one invariably knows one is going to be in for a topsy-turvy read of the most intense design; which in truth, is just one way of describing this altogether confrontational and rather robust read.

David Marx

Logic, Truth and Meaning

logic

Logic, Truth and Meaning
By G.E.M. Anscombe
Imprint Academic – £19.95

Logic, Truth and Meaning, now there’s a thought, now there’s a title.

I can think of a great many people I’d like to alert and address those words to: The Islamic State for one; along with Donald Trump, Cameron’s (entire) Cabinet, Sir Philip Greene, scum-bag people traffickers, varying oiks amid Portsmouth’s council estates, Jeremy Kyle and of course, Donald Trump.

Or have I already mentioned him?

Edited into three distinct sections (Part 1: Wittgenstein and the Tractatus, Part 2: Thought and Belief and Part 3: Meaning Truth and Existence), there’s no denying that editors Mary Geach and Luke Gormally have in these 312 pages, covered a wide terrain of idiosyncratic intellectual thought – the sort of which will compel many an inquisitive soul to ponder way beyond the parameters of ones’ comfort zone.

Amid such chapter titles as ‘Elementary Propositions,’ ”Mysticism’ and Solipsism,’ ‘Thought and Existent Objects,’ ‘Grammar, Structure and Essence’ and Existence and the Existential Quantifier,’ it has to be said that much of the writing throughout Logic, Truth and Meaning will no doubt trigger a process of (perhaps inadvertent) questioning. The sort of questioning which will in turn, induce a philosophical snow-ball effect whereby all stands to be gleaned by way of pronounced investigation.

After all, wasn’t it the American writer Glenway Westcott who wrote: Language is a god, sex is a god, time is a god./Fate is a convocation or combination of gods, an entire Olympus?

This fourth (and final) volume of writings by Elizabeth Anscombe essentially reprints her Introduction to Wittgentein’s Tractatus, along with a number of other essays in which she confronts thought and language. The fundamental essence of the essays traversing such in depth issues as truth and existence, reason and representation. So in all, pretty big stuff – of which the following from the fifth chapter of part two of the book is as good an example as any: ”Wittgenstein once answered a question of mine by saying that a lot of the works of philosophy of the recent centuries had titles which either referred to the mind in some fashion, or contained the word ‘principles.’ This very much characterised the philosophies, and that gathered – for in this sentence I have not been quoting his actual words, but only the gist of them […]. However it is not important for me to elucidate Wittgenstein’s earlier or later opinions on experimental psychology. I have said what I have in order to avoid inaccuracy. My main aim is to point to the very great importance of the Tractatus thought that theory of knowledge is philosophy of psychology” (‘Knowledge and Essence’).

As mentioned earlier, the final sentence ”theory of knowledge is philosophy of psychology,” triggers a further process of questioning: Is the theory of knowledge the philosophy of psychology?

As Roger Scruton has written (whose own book, Conversations With Roger Scruton I shall soon be reviewing): ”Elizabeth Anscombe was the most important of Wittgenstein’s pupils, with an intellect as great and wide-ranging as her teacher’s. She thought deeply, wrote beautifully, and was never taken in by pretence.”

That Anscombe was ”never taken in by pretence,” is a truth induced testament to that of not only her work, but her legacy. And for that alone, her philosophy and her writing(s) warrant investigation.

David Marx