Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain by Alan Sinfield
In October 1940 Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI, wrote to the king's mother: `I feel quite exhausted after seeing and hearing so much sadness, sorrow, heroism and magnificent spirit. The destruction is so awful, and the people so wonderful - they deserve a better world.' The conclusion of the Second World War offered a rare opportunity to recast the British social order: the Welfare State and full employment were the corner-stones of a daring experiment to produce popular co-operation in a fairer society. Now, the experiment is being abandoned by the New Right, bringing a return to unemployment, poverty, harassment of minorities and authoritarian government.Literature and arts, Sinfield argues, have been thoroughly implicated in this history. As concepts and institutions, they have been marshalled within conflicting ideologies, elitist and egalitarian, so sustaining and disputing prevailing social relations. And through literary representations, fundamental questions about power in British society have been broached and contested - questions of war and peace, nation and empire, gender and sexual orientation, class and political allegiance.This provocative study of British culture through five decades synthesizes literary, historical and theoretical approaches, addressing particularly points where English literature intersects with its defining others - jazz and rock music, television, journalism, commercial and `mass' cultures, the rapidly growing cultural authority of the United States. Finally Sinfield argues that there is still scope for a dissident cultural politics.This is a milestone in cultural criticism and a major contribution to British socialist thought.