Tag Archives: palgrave macmillan

Developing England’s North

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Developing England’s North –
The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse
Edited by Craig Berry & Arianna Giovannini
Palgrave Macmillan – £92.00

The whole deal with developing England’s North ought to be just as deeply and as equally entrenched within the staid stasis of attitude, as it is within the all to considered sphere of finance and economics. But it isn’t; which, given much of the mire in which the North invariably finds itself, is a mighty big shame.
If not an inexorable problem.

Reason being, in the so-called futuristic, (B-I-G) scheme of all things progressive, one of the most fundamental issues which ultimately holds the North back, is the North itself.
By which I mean, its devout desire to assert it’s very ‘Northerness.’
If you’ve ever spent time in Yorkshire, you’ll know what I mean.
If you haven’t, let me put it this way: Yorkshire prides itself on it’s idiosyncratic stubborness – plain and exceedingly simple.
Regardless of issue.
Regardless of what’s at stake.
Regardless of anything ‘other.’

This essentially explains why most of the North, along with Cornwall and vast swathes of South Wales, voted for Brexit; despite the fact that Brussels has been keeping much of these deprived areas financially afloat for years.
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you, but that’s Yorkshire for you.
Along with most of the North.

This partially explains the background behind a lot of Developing England’s North – The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse, as the editors Craig Berry and Arianna Giovannini make abundantly clear at the outset: ‘Brexit’ – the UK’s decision, in the referendum of 23 June 2016, to withdraw from the European Union – looms large over the book’s content. Like the UK in general, most parts of the North are highly integrated with, and as such dependent upon, at least in the short-term, the wider European economy. More generally, the EU’s political and economic structures and processes are in an integral dimension of the (evolving) political economy of the North. Interestingly, the areas of the UK (including large parts of the North) where jobs and production are most dependent on European economic integration (and indeed EU investment) are those that voted most strongly to leave […].”

Therein, I’d have like to have read a little more about the North from as much of an ideological perspective, than that which the book’s secondary title suggests. As again, the area’s social attitudes, wants, needs and desires, will continue to play just as big a part within the realm of The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse than is generally given credit.
Or realised.
Perhaps even more in fact, as the subliminal trajectory thereof is huge.

Might this be just one reason why it is never ever, truly confronted?
Might this go some way in explaining ”the fact that the Northern Powerhouse as a specific discursive ploy appears to have been marginalised within Theresa May’s government?”

Compartmentalised into three specific sections (‘Economic Policy and the Political Economy of Northern Development,’ ‘Place, City-Regional Governance and Local Politics’ and ‘Inequality and Austerity in the Northern Powerhouse Agenda’), all the fine contributors to this book have done a most magnificent job within the economic area(s) of their own committed fields. But with possible exception of Chapter Ten’s ‘Regionalisation and Civil Society in a Time of Austerity: The Cases of Manchester and Sheffield’ by David Beel, Martin Jones and Ian Rees Jones, far too much of Developing England’s North is far too entrenched within a myopic quagmire of it’s own linear design.

David Marx

Youth Culture and Social Change

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Youth Culture and Social Change –
Making a Difference by Making a Noise
Edited by the Subcultures Network
Palgrave Macmillan – £89.99

Now look at it, Simon Cowell and all that nonsense, where they just take the soul out of everything and regurgitate this shit at people, and people want it. Their lives are being narrowed down.

‘Agents of Change, Cultural Materialism –
Post-Punk and the Politics of Popular Music’

Here, Here. And doubly here; for the above opening quote is a sentiment shot straight from both my heart and hip (and then some). For Simon Cowell – to whom many oft refer to as the devil incarnate – is indeed responsible for having taken the soul out of music. Aretha Franklin would no doubt have despised him and everything he stands for.
If not sighed an abundance of mortal resignation at the mere prospect of what Cowell and his ghastly, sickly, conglomorate of fuckers have done to music.

For this reason alone, Youth Culture and Social Change – Making a Difference by Making a Noise is very much a book worth reading.

Although I do have to say, it is on the whole, somewhat disparate and convoluted in its approach. One of the reasons for this being the degree to which the opening chapter ‘Subcultures, Schools and Rituals: A Case Study of the ‘Bristol Riots ‘ (1980) by Roger Ball, goes into considerble depth on said riots; before tengentially heading the reader off and dissecting the degree to which the American hardcore, punk band, Bad Brains, have influneced international, or at least, western youth culture in chapter eight’s ‘How to Forget (and Remember) ‘The Greatest Punk Rock Band in the World’: Bad Brains: Hardcore Punk and Black Popular Culture’ by Tara Martin Lopez and Michael Mills.

Not that there’s anything essentially wrong or uninteresting with either subject; it’s just that on a number of occasions throughout these 283 pages, I found myself trying to make some kind of visceral connection.

For instance, in the book’s Introduction, the editors write: ”The post-war generation came to be defined by their refusal to reap the rewards of the post-war settlement in simple terms. Instead they took new popular cultural spaces like cinema, clubs and concert halls, and used them to build new collective identities. For example, young girls’ sexuality and romantic desires worked against the fault-lines of the prescriptive literature they read. They were being sold the dream of the happy-ever-after ending, but in the process they became aware of themselves as sexual agents. It was apparent that young people did not necessarily want to do as they were told and sought to make a difference by making a noise.”

Absolutely fine.
So far so good.
Especially the line: ”and sought to make a difference by making a noise.”
But where on earth is the correlation between the above and the Tory MP, Oliver Letwin’s comment in the final chapter, ‘Silence is Virtual’: Youth Violence, Belonging, Death and Mourning’ by William ‘Lez’ Henry and Sireita Mullings-Lawrence, which reads: ”The root of social malaise is not poor housing, or youth ‘alienation,’ or the lack of a middle class… Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes. So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve the inner cities will founder.”

Again, in and of itself, this is absolutely fine – not that I necessarily agree with what Letwin is saying. As are the many other subjects addressed throughout Youth Culture and Social Change. Be it the aforementioned Simon Cowell, Bristol Riots or Bad Brains; gang girl sexuality, underground music within the realm of the UK Riots or Easterhouse and ‘The Politics of Representation in the Glasgow Gang Phenomenon.’

They are, suffice to say, all mighty interesting issues in their own right; but do they all belong in the same book?

David Marx

Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare

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Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare –
Place, ”Race,” Politics
By Shaul Bassi
Palgrave Macmillan 

It is certain that, without Machiavelli, Shakespeare’s tragic theatre would not have been the same.

          (‘Neocon and Theoprog: The New Machiavellian Moment’)

We should continue to insist that race is less a property of an individual or group than a cultural and political process with no basis in science (pace the current obsession with genetics). As a consequence, there is no contradiction in dropping”race” as a noun while keeping all its morphological variants that point to it as a process and a relation: racism, racist, racial, racialization, and raciology. Concurrently, to investigate human difference in Shakespeare, we may start making a better use of the less compromised and more nuanced category of ethnicity.

          (‘Iago’s Race, Shakespeare’s Ethnicities’)

William Shakespeare has always been relevant, and this occasionally hard hitting book ensures that perhaps now, today, more than ever. Reason being, I’m hard pressed to think of a particular era in my lifetime, where racism was so devoutly entrenched at the forefront of the everyday. Especially within the wide-open expanse of such varying and inflammatory portals where social media – which, lest it be said, we all partake in on an almost daily basis – plays such a resolute part.

A medium, where let’s face it, there can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that an entire array of Iagos’ await to condemn and criticize; way beyond any reasonable doubt where racism, is jut as ugly and festering a cancer today, as it has ever been. One need only behold the prime influential cancer growth that is Donald Trump – the President of the United States of America no less – who, for whatever vile and vindictive implication, remains as openly and acutely racist, as it is humanely possible to be.

In all, we live in profoundly dangerous, incendiary times, of which Trump (very closely followed by his many mortals in crime) is doing his up-most-best, to further instil and promote an already volatile society. A society, where the afore quoted ”racism, racist, racial, racialization and raciology” appears to be flourishing un-checked to such a worrying degree, that it is nigh out of control. And if it isn’t out of control, it’s dire, deplorable trajectory appears to have most certainly been (fully) embraced by Britain’s purveyors of Brexit; which, given the full title of this book, triggers the thinking as to where William Shakespeare might have stood on the fiasco that is Brexit.

Furthermore, were one to hurl the likes of Italy’s Niccolo Machiavelli into the equation – which this most simmering of an evocative book does more than handsomely – one ought to indelibly know that one is in for one hell of a literary read.

To be sure, as such is already made abundantly clear in the ‘Introduction: Country Dispositions’ where Shaul Bassi writes: ”This experimental set of readings aims to ask what special relations might obtain between the Italy of Shakespeare and the Italy of a certain line of modern thought, as mediated above all by the work of Machiavelli. Capitalizing on these critical orientations, Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare examine aspects that have remained largely unexplored, arguing that the productive dialogue between the early modern and the postmodern […] can be usefully supplemented by a consideration of key moments of the long pre- and post-independence history of Italy, a country that at the time of Shakespeare was a mosaic of disparate political entities and that only in the nineteenth century, when Shakespeare was first imported into Italian culture, became a unified state.”

Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare – Place, ”Race,” Politics, is a totally clear-cut analyses of that which its title purports to; although it does need to be stressed that it is the most timely pertinence with which it has been written, which fundamentally accounts for its rather unfortunate, albeit current relevance: ”[…] in contemporary Europe, a continent that is increasingly multiethnic but also socially deteriorating and fragile, where the foreigner, especially if her religion or skin colour is different from the majority, is liable to become a convenient scapegoat”’ (‘Fixed Figures: The Other Moors Of Venice’) – my italics.

The whole idea of the ‘scapegoat,’ is what surely describes today’s (predominantly) Western society at best, that, if noting else, is just one of the many, many reasons these 201 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Bibliography and Index) warrant both reading and embracing.

David Marx

 

Debating Europe In National Parliaments

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Debating Europe In National Parliaments –
Public Justification and Political Polarization
By Frank Wendler
Palgrave Macmillan – £92.00

What with the ghastly likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and of course Jacob Rees Mogg – not to mention the entire Tory government – Britain’s future with(in) the rest of Europe hangs precariously in the balance of (knowingly) machine gunning itself in the foot.
Totally and utterly.
Thus resulting in a broken body that no longer works.
Thus resulting in having become one of the world’s prime laughing stocks – due to orchestrated self-infliction might one add – beyond repair.

Wasn’t Broken Britain enough?
Did/Does ever more irreparable damage need to be done?

Clearly it does, which is why Debating Europe In National Parliaments – Public Justification and Political Polarization and such other books of a similar political design, also hang somewhat precariously in the balance.

Simply because, among other things, no two days are ever the same in Great (great?) Britain.

Moreover, what is without any shadow of a right-wing induced doubt, is the degree to which Britain is no longer taken remotely seriously amid the world’s the corridors of power. Especially when said corridors are in Paris, Berlin and Moscow; which to be fair, this book’s eight chapters simply bypass.
As if an open cesspit of a wound!

There again, as Frank Wendler states in the Introduction: ”The main task of this book is to uncover how public political contention evolves in parliamentary debates, and what forms of political polarization between parliamentary parties can be observed in a comparison of four European legislatures. Against this background, the purpose of this book is to link two debates that currently play a central role for research about European integration: first, the investigation of the effects of EU decision-making on the politics of its Member States, as commonly addressed through the term ”Europeanization” […] and second, research dealing with the perception that the process of European integration is going through a transformative change through the increased public visibility, political salience, and contestation of its policies and decisions, as expressed through the term ”politicization” […]. Through this connection, the book positions itself both in the study of European integration and in the comparative study of parliaments and party systems.”

The aforementioned wheeler-dealer, cum lying toad numero uno, Nigel Farage, would no doubt have (an open) field day deflecting such adult dogma as: ”European integration[…] in the comparative study of parliaments and party systems.”

So well done Frank Wendler for having compiled this rather weighty dissertation on such a wide and varied (complicated) subject matter; upon which Professor Vivien A.Schmidt of Boston University has since written:”Wendler’s groundbreaking study documents the increasing salience of the European Union in national parliamentary debates over the past decade. Using an innovative mix of quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis of four highly differentiated legislatures(the UK, France, Germany and Austria), the book connects different EU-related discursive frames to very different patterns of party polarization, to show how and why this matters for the bottom-up democratization of the EU.”

Excluding two lists of Figures and Tables, an Annex (Plenary Debates of National Parliaments Coded for the Present Study) and Index, these 238 pages make for dry, albeit – given the subject matter – very informative reading.

David Marx

Mayoral Collaboration Under Nazi Occupation in Belgium, The Netherlands and France, 1938-46

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Mayoral Collaboration Under Nazi Occupation in Belgium, The Netherlands and France, 1938-46
By Nico Wouters
Palgrave Macmillan – £63.00

One popular theory that has particular relevance for this book says that Belgian society was pervaded by a deep-rooted distrust of central governmental power, and this, in turn, led to a culture where there was a lower threshold for the evasion of certain central regulations.

                                                                                       (‘Local Democracies’)

Having worked somewhat collaboratively with Belgian citizens, I do have to say there is indeed ”a lower threshold for the evasion of certain central regulations” within the Belgian personality. It may in fact, be somewhat (inadvertently) endemic within the nation’s psyche, which, considering that the head of the European Union is situated in the Belgian capital of Brussels, could be construed as rather ironic.

Mightily so. Or is it?

As this overtly analytical book testifies in relation to Belgium – along with The Netherlands and France – during World War II: ”The problems of imposing central policies became explicit early on (food supply organisation in 1940, for example). Specific local Belgo-German agreements prevailed. Large cities became islands in themselves. A systemic lack of clarity about the legality of orders – but, even more importantly, the legitimacy of national public authority – was endemic. In this context, the Germans could implement a system of direct (local) rule early on” (Conclusion – ‘Local States’).

This mode of behaviour, or ability, might partially explain why the European Union – as Britain once knew it – fundamentally works.

Mightily so. Or does it?

Mayoral Collaboration Under Nazi Occupation in Belgium, The Netherlands and France, 1938-46, as its title might suggest, could be considered as an early template to how said nations essentially operate(d) during times of duress and economic distrust. Each of the three countries social forbearance is brought to bear amid these 330 pages (excluding Abbreviations, Bibliography and Index), while author Nico Wouters ensures it is literally done so by way of clear-cut-understanding.

An understanding, all the more enhanced by way of proper substantiation.

To be sure, there are numerous examples scatted throughout the book, although, for the sake of continuity, the following follows on from the above opening quote (found in the chapter, ‘Local Democracies’): ”Conversely, Dutch collective mentality was supposedly conditioned to display much greater obedience to central power and regulations. The Flemish historian Lode Wils argued that this Belgian attitude had been moulded by centuries of foreign occupation. The Dutch mentality, on the other hand, was founded in historic, socio-economic liberal traditions combined with an obedient strand of Protestant culture”

That Wouters is Academic Coordinator at the Brussels CegeSoma and Guest Professor at the History Department of Ghent University (in Belgium), it should come as no surprise that these eight chapters equate a thorough assimilation of the complexities of the historical task in hand, with a writing that is as concise as it is occasionally surprising (at the right time/s).

In having researched such variable issues as food supply, public order and safety, forced labour, the repression of resistance, the persecution of the Jews and post-war purges, this most readable of books redefines our knowledge of collaboration, resistance and accommodation during Nazi occupation (in France, Belgium and The Netherlands).

David Marx

The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and The City

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The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and The City
Edited by Jeremy Tambling
Palgrave Macmillan – £29.80

     So let us not place any particular value on the city’s name. Like all big cities it was made up of irregularity, change, forward spurts, failures to keep step, collisions of objects and interests, punctuated by unfathomable silences; made up of pathways and untrodden ways, of one great rhythmic beat as well as the chronic discord and mutual displacement of all its contending rhythms.

     Robert Musil
     The Man Without Qualities

     […] sometimes, in his room or on the pavement, the world seemed to him a strange labyrinth even when the streets were straight and the walls were square; a chaos which made him feel that something in him should be able to understand it, divide it, focus it.

     Richard Wright
     Native Son

    The principal figures were two black men. One of them, of medium height, had his hands tied, his eyes cast down, bronze-coloured skin, and a rope tied around his neck. The end of the rope was in the hands of another black man. This one was looking straight ahead, and his colour was uniformly jet black. He was bearing the curiosity of the crowd with pose. When the paper had been read the procession continued on along the Rua dos Ourives. It was coming from jail…

     Machado de Assis
     Quincas Borba

It’s only when you read a colossal and cultured, well researched and undeniably informative book such as this, that you realise just how great (certain) cities are. They’re almost living things. They live and breath and soar and deny and are so many things to so many people. What was it Noel Coward once said: ”I don’t know what London’s coming to – the higher the buildings the lower the morals.”

Indeed, morality and the city, don’t necessarily make for the of best bed fellows. Whereas literature and the city, could be considered something of a svelte symposium; the sort of which, many would profess to having been made in (the city of ) heaven itself. Wherever that is? Which is where this tumultuous tomb of literary prowess comes unto its own.

Clocking in at 798 pages (excluding Volume Editor’s Introduction and Acknowledgements, Further Reading, Author Index, Index of Cities, Countries, Places) this outrageously in depth analysis on the subject of literature and cities, is as quintessentially complex as it is emphatically considered – which could well be a first.
And if not a first, then it really is an outstanding second.

As the above opening three quotes (on the cities of Vienna, Chicago and Rio de Janeiro) perhaps exemplify, The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and The City is a masterful collection of exactly what it says on the cover – from all around the world.

Divided into seven prime parts (‘The City on Theory,’ ‘European Cities,’ ‘North American Cities,’ ‘Latin American Cities,’ ‘African Cities,’ ‘Asian Cities’ and ‘Urban Themes’), the book fundamentally addresses what effect on literature the various great cities around the world have (intrinsically) had. While in some instances – Dublin, Paris and New York for instance – the other way around: what effect on cities literature has had. For as Scott McCracken, Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at Queen Mary University of London has written: ”The relationship between literature and the city is a Gordian knot, that becomes more tangled the more the critic tries to unpick it. Rather than slicing through it, this ambitious collection of essays instead catalogues its dimensions, ranging far beyond the familiar studies of European and American cities into Latin America, Africa, and Asia. With essays on Brasilia, Lagos, Beirut, and Tokyo, as well as Lisbon and Vienna, the result is a fascinating, almost encyclopedic, account of urban literature on a scale that no one else has yet attempted.”

The fact that it hasn’t really been attempted (that I know of), is what initially makes this book so attractive to begin with; as rather than having to assimilate and collate all the varying information on cities and literature – a veritable nightmare surely? – it’s all here. In one book.

And if not all, then a hell of a lot; much of which is derived from that of a fascinating premise: ”Where writing has aimed at forging a national unity (the ‘imagined community’), the city has often been seen as dysfunctional to that, because it either challenges a national consensus or is felt to be in the hands of western investors, who treat city and country as a cash cow and ignore its specificities. Some cities have not produced writing which has been translated, or gone beyond its immediate circumstances, perhaps out of the sense that ‘literature’ itself is an imperial conception, conferring on some, but not all, exploitative culture capital.”

This is in itself, an overtly interesting premise from which one could fully embark on an entirely new form of investigation: the idea that literature is an imperial concept. As literature is (also) clearly based on the assumption that we can all read and write; which, during the varying times of discovery, wasn’t always the case.
Still isn’t.

Herein lies just one aspect of what accounts for The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and The City being such a wide, inspired and at times, very varied read. That the contributors themselves stem from an assortment of backgrounds, clearly has some bearing as to why such is the case.

That said, there is a rich tapestry of depth running throughout this stunning book, that, for anyone remotely interested in literature and/or cities, comes both highly and regally recommended.

David Marx

Why The UK Voted For Brexit

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Why The UK Voted For Brexit –
David Cameron’s Great Miscalculation
By Andrew Glencross
Palgrave Pivot – £37.99

I’m still exceedingly hard pressed to think of at least ONE iota of a good thing to have emerged as a result of the referendum on Brexit. But am alas, inexorably stumped beyond profound shock, disbelief and tumultuous frustration.

The cacophonous hordes, who from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, continue to reside amid the myopic charge of far too many immigrants (supposedly coming over here, nicking our jobs and changing our way life) is so astonishingly adolescent; were it not so utterly detrimental for all concerned – in the extreme might I add – it would be nigh laughable.

The (laughter and) latter of which, the most concise Why The UK Voted For Brexit – David Cameron’s Great Miscalculation both touches on and reflects upon without any undue flim-flam nor skimming around the immense political disaster that Brexit invariably is.

And will continue to be for many, many years to come.

As Andrew Glencross, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations and author of these six chapters writes: ”The over arching purpose of this book is […] twofold. It seeks, firstly, to shed light on how the UK came to vote for Brexit; secondly, it evaluates the implications that this decision has for the country’s international relations as well as for its domestic politics.

What the referendum outcome probably demonstrated most clearly was how far public opinion was out of step with the government’s cost-benefit argument for EU membership. Confident of winning the referendum on the basis of a pragmatic, bean-counting evaluation, David Cameron’s gamble proved a great miscalculation.”

If nothing else, such words are a great understatement.

Economically alone, Brexit will prove devastating for the country, as Glencross continues: ”It ranks amongst the major political blunders of British Prime Ministers and has sent shock waves across Europe and the North Atlantic.”

Very readable and very to the point, Why The UK Voted For Brexit is a brave and altogether timely book, which absolutely needs to be read by anyone and everyone who actually cares about Britain and it’s future.

David Marx