Radicalism, past, present and future

Over recent years, it seems ‘radical’ has become a dirty word. In the wake of the anniversary of 1968, and with books and films galore about the romance and failures of revolutionary life and thought, it seems we’re comfortable with radicalism as an object of nostalgia, but less willing to understand its contemporary legacy – and its trivialisation.

Culture Wars is exploring radicalism – past, present and future – in an attempt to understand a lived tradition as well as how certain ideas filter through the culture. Having focused on past ‘Radical Thinkers’ and the legacy of 1968, touring from Iran to Haiti, investigating the role of ideology and demise of the traditional Left, we turn towards two contemporary variants: ‘political Islam’ and the environmentalist movement. These reviews and essays constitute a critical investigation of what shapes contemporary attitudes towards the future.

Saturday 8 June 2013

The Ascendancy of the Ass-Backwards Masses … and How We Can Still Turn It Around

Culture itself is now our counterculture … or it can be and must be if we still entertain any hope of combating the boorishness and buffoonery eating away at our life, public and private alike.  It is time for a groundswell.  We need a new protest movement centred around the notion that we must demand more of ourselves and each other, that we cannot be satisfied or complacent in the face of the culture of trash besieging us on all fronts.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Beyond capitalism?

Could new technology make the world more free and equal?

We are now facing the prospect of a world without need, a world in which suffering can become a thing of the past and some stronger semblance of equality can be easily realised. We can help forge a world in which the current paradigm of capitalism, based on individualism and conspicuous consumption, can fall by the wayside.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Terrible burdens of the Promethean spirit

The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner, ENO, Coliseum, London

The music takes its temper and tempo from the sea, with its growling timpani thunder and the swirling chromatic whirlpools of strings. The sea also represents both the site of the Dutchman’s fateful aspiration and his current prison and jailer.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Liberal contortionism

Can We Talk About This?, National Theatre (Lyttelton), London

As a metaphor for how we all operate under the politics of offence, forced into becoming increasingly careful of our words while our material reality travel in different directions - it’s difficult not to feel as though the obsession with young Muslim women lacking autonomy in forced marriages is something of a displacement activity for a denuded sense of agency across the West – DV8’s physical theatre offers a genuine insight.

Friday 9 December 2011

At home with East End protest

Artist in Residence: Shiraz Bayjoo: Bow Boys' Archive, Whitechapel Gallery, London

Tower Hamlets didn’t suffer so badly from the riots compared to other areas of London, probably because of this tight-knit community of which Bayjoo’s young men are part.

Monday 7 November 2011

The 40 hours that shook European elites (and the timid Left)

Lessons for the Left from the Greek referendum debacle

The radical Left in Greece has always considered the European Union as the watchdog of European capital and a barrier to developing a different model of development and progress for the Greek people. Nevertheless, when the moment came, for the first time in 30 years, to challenge this burden, they seemed to consider the situation unbearable, and were afraid to step forward and lead.

Friday 28 October 2011

Passports to modernity

Interview: Alex Danchev on art manifestos

‘These are living and breathing social documents that talk of human beings speaking to other human beings. The language and mode of expression is radical, bold and strident. And I think it relates to what we’ve already discussed…that artists saw themselves as part of a much bigger change that some sections of society were attempting to bring about.’

Friday 8 July 2011

Belfast: Exposed

Where are the people? Contemporary photographs of Belfast 2002-2010, edited by Karen Downey

Ethical concerns can just as easily be motivated by an evasion of responsibility, as they can by a desire to capture the displacement of people from history-making. The absence of people in documentary photography can be an accurate picture of the position of the people in contemporary society, but this absence can also amount to an attempt to evade the question Where are the people?

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Enlightenment through demonstration

And the Horse You Rode In On, Barbican, London

If the terrorist has become a cultural staple, Told By an Idiot are determined to chip off the old schlock. Torn from their original settings, these examples no longer seem stock villains. They stop functioning as plot-driving antagonists; those that afford heroes their heroism.

Thursday 20 January 2011

The Theatre of Protest

Forty years on from les événements, is the UK seeing the blossoming of a new, theatrical protest movement?

Similarly theatrical is the recognition that the human body is a symbolic site - be it dancing in the confines of kettle-raves, sportsday in Topshop, the spontaneous choreography of facing an armoured police line, or being violently dragged from a wheelchair. Indeed, when Cameron decries ‘the mob’, he is like a particularly insensitive critic, failing or refusing to grasp the nature of a very complex and energetic ensemble piece.

Tuesday 4 January 2011


The Return of the Public, by Dan Hind (Verso, 2010)

Hind effectively conflates Kant’s notion of public reason as a scholarly ideal with the whole idea of public participation in politics. The effect is to restrict severely what counts as properly ‘public’ participation, and even public opinion.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Goods are good

Ferraris for All: In Defence of Economic Growth, by Daniel Ben-Ami (Policy Press, 2010)

The implication of Ferraris is that the incessant focus on limits of all kinds today is about the idea of, the necessity for, limits per se rather than specific limits themselves. Any attempt to argue that such and such a particular limit – the ‘tyranny of oil’ – can be overcome – with biofuels - will be countered almost immediately with another limit – a claimed shortage of land.

Monday 5 July 2010

Manicured misrule

Revolution Now!, ICA, London

The implication is that genuine revolution has become impossible in a world governed by its media. Perhaps the best any public outrage can hope to muster is a Twitter campaign or a Facebook petition. And what do they choose to achieve? A festive chart-topper for Rage Against the Machine. It’s hardly Tiananmen Square.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Stasi surveillance

The Lives of Others, dir. Von Donnersmarck (2006)

He is amazed to see not only that information was omitted, but that this operative fabricated the details of a whole play Dreyman and his cohorts were supposed to have written for the 40th anniversary of East Germany’s founding.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Reactionary, reified, religious and revoltingly inhumane

Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change, by Clive Hamilton (Earthscan, 2010)

Hamilton starts his chapter on ‘denial’ by recounting the tale of the ‘cognitive dissonance’ suffered by a 1950s doomsday cult whose apocalyptic predictions failed to materialise; an ironic choice for a thinker in a tradition which has consistently predicted (as yet unrealised) ecological disaster since the 1790s.

Page 1 of 8 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »


Blast from the Past! - the original Radical Thinkers series, intro and resources from the old world CW, plus, the printer-friendly pdf.

Radical Philosophy, journal of socialist and feminist philosophy

Radical Notes, coordinating radical voices around the globe

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.