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Culture of Complaint The Fraying of America

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ISBN-10: 0195076761

ISBN-13: 9780195076769

Edition: 1993

Authors: Robert Hughes

List price: $35.00
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Description:

The best-selling author of The Shock of the New, The Fatal Shore, and Barcelona here delivers a withering polemic aimed at the heart of recent American politics and culture. Culture of Complaint is a call for the re-knitting of a fragmented and over-tribalized America--a deeply passionate book, filled with barbed wit and devastating takes on public life, both left and right of center. To the right, Hughes fires broadsides at the populist demagogy of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms and especially Ronald Reagan ("with somnambulistic efficiency, Reagan educated America down to his level. He left his country a little stupider in 1988 than it had been in 1980, and a lot more tolerant of lies"). To the left, he skewers political correctness ("political etiquette, not politics itself"), Afrocentrism, and academic obsessions with theory ("The world changes more deeply, widely, thrillingly than at any moment since 1917, perhaps since 1848, and the American academic left keeps fretting about how phallocentricity is inscribed in Dickens' portrayal of Little Nell"). PC censoriousness and "family-values" rhetoric, he argues, are only two sides of the same character, extrusions of America's puritan heritage into the present--and, at root, signs of America's difficulty in seeing past the end of the Us-versus-Them mentality implanted by four decades of the Cold War. In the long retreat from public responsibility beaten by America in the 80s, Hughes sees "a hollowness at the cultural core"--a nation "obsessed with therapies and filled with distrust of formal politics; skeptical of authority and prey to superstition; its language corroded by fake pity and euphemism." It resembles "late Rome...in the corruption and verbosity of its senators, in its reliance on sacred geese (those feathered ancestors of our own pollsters and spin-doctors) and in its submission to senile, deified emperors controlled by astrologers and extravagant wives." Culture of Complaint is fired by a deep concern for the way Hughes sees his adopted country heading. But it is not a relentless diatribe. If Hughes lambastes some aspects of American politics, he applauds Vaclav Havel's vision of politics "not as the art of the useful, but politics as practical morality, as service to the truth." And if he denounces PC, he offers a brilliant and heartfelt defence of non-ideological multiculturalism as an antidote to Americans' difficulty in imagining the rest of the world--and other Americans. Here, then, is an extraordinary cri de coeur, an outspoken call for the reconstruction of America's ideas about its recent self. It is a book that everyone interested in American culture will want to read.
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Book details

List price: $35.00
Copyright year: 1993
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 4/22/1993
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.880
Language: English

Robert Hughes was born on July 28, 1938 in Sydney, Australia. He attended St. Ignatius College and Sydney University before embarking on a career as a freelance writer. In 1970, he became the art critic for Time magazine. Hughes garnered wide acclaim for his book and television series The Shock of the New. Chronicling Hughes's vast knowledge and experience with modern art, The Shock of the New presents the author's views and opinions of many facets of art including contemporary architecture. Hughes's other ground-breaking books include American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America and Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America. In these, Hughes presents his own unique brand of criticism, not merely on art, but also on American politics. Everyone from Jesse Helms to Ronald Reagan undergoes analysis, and the state of politics in the late 20th century is often lamented.

Introduction
Culture and the Broken Polity
Multi-Culti and Its Discontents
Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy
Notes