Militant Modernism

A defence of Modernism against its defenders.

...subtle ingenuity and sheer exuberance
Jonathan Meades, New Statesman

...freewheeling, spinning out ideas, theories and evaluations that may have their origin in the stony core of the built environment, but which spread to encompass most other aesthetic realms as well.
Will Self, London Review of Books

This book is a defence of Modernism against its defenders. In readings of modern design, film, pop and especially architecture, it attempts to reclaim a revolutionary modernism against its absorption into the heritage industry and the aesthetics of the luxury flat. Militant Modernism features new readings of some familiar names - Bertolt Brecht, Le Corbusier - but more on the lesser known, quotidian modernists of the 20th century. The chapters range from a study of industrial and brutalist aesthetics in Britain, Russian Constructivism in architecture, the Sexpol of Wilhelm Reich in film and design, and the alienation effects of Brecht and Hanns Eisler on record and on screen - all arguing for a Modernism of everyday life, immersed in questions of socialism, sexual politics and technology.


With svelte prose, agile wit, and alarming erudition, Owen Hatherley pries open the prematurely closed case of early 20th Century modernism.
Simon Reynolds, Author of Rip It Up and Start Again - Postpunk 1978-84

Brecht meeting Ballard to create the science-fiction of socialism.
Benjamin Noys, Author of The Culture of Death
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
  • Hatherley is ostensibly a critic in the mode of Reyner Banham: freewheeling, spinning out ideas, theories and evaluations that may have their origin in the stony core of the built environment, but which spread to encompass most other aesthetic realms as well. ~ Will Self, London Review of Books
  • subtle ingenuity and sheer exuberance ~ Jonathan Meades, New Statesman
  • Fear of Music is the deflected Bildungsroman of a very clever, velvet-gloved provocateur nostalgic for yesterday’s tomorrow, for a world made before he was born, a distant, preposterously optimistic world which, even though it still exists in scattered fragments, has had its meaning erased, its possibilities defiled. And which has posthumously been wilfully misrepresented.
    ….... The last third of the book is devoted to a detailed scrutiny of Makavejev’s anti-naturalism and to special pleading on behalf of Bertolt Brecht’s alienation effect, devices which, together with the example of the constructivist variant called productivism, Hatherley considers might be among the bases of a new Proletcult, an art of engagement and commitment. Maybe. The writing in this section does not share the freshness, subtle ingenuity and sheer exuberance of what precedes it. As a commentator on architecture, however, Hatherley is in a school of one. ~ Jonathan Meades, New Statesman
  • This may be the only book you'll read dedicated to the Southampton city council architects department. Which is a shame, because according to Owen Hatherley, who grew up on a Southampton housing estate, its postwar buildings are "excitingly modern" and evoke the "glittering towers of science fiction". Bombed-out British cities like Southampton offered modernist architects a chance to realise their utopian dreams of a socialist new society. But their concrete cities in the sky have fallen out of favour, unlike other socialist structures such as the NHS. Hatherley's book is an intelligent and passionately argued attempt to "excavate utopia" from the ruins of modernism and to oppose the trend in public housing towards a Disneyfied pastiche of pre-industrial architecture, as at Prince Charles's Poundbury. Hatherley's exhilarating manifesto for a reborn socialist modernism is inspired by an admirable desire to reawaken our sense of the utopian imaginary. His rallying cry is suitably Brechtian: "Forwards! Not forgetting." ~ P D Smith, The Guardian
  • This energetic – and at times wildly enjoyable – polemic attempts to accomplish two difficult tasks: to excavate the lost utopian relics of a vital leftist past, and then to present these findings as methods which can be employed by the contemporary British left in its attempts to jolt itself back to vitality from its currently moribund state. It is to Owen Hatherley’s credit that he achieves both to a significant degree, presenting a compelling case for a coherent strand of largely-communist leftism that explored the imaginative possibilities of a revolution expressed through cultural forms: in architecture, in art, in film. ~ Karl Whitney, www.3ammagazine.com
  • Why can't the present be more like the future? Time was they wanted it Now. Owen Hatherley's Militant Modernism (0 Books, £9.99) would be insanely ambitious if he hadn't pulled off the seemingly impossible, compressed social, political and aesthetic analysis of modernist utopianism in a sizzling 160 pages. Ruskin: Gothic, Hatherley: modernism. Mind-blowing ~ Helen DeWitt, New Statesman books of the year 2009
  • Hatherley's book is an intelligent and passionately argued attempt to excavate utopia from the ruins of modernism and to oppose the trend towards Disneyfication. Hatherley's exhilarating manifesto for a reborn socialist modernism is inspired by an admirable desire to reawaken our sense of utopia. ~ P.D Smith, The Guardian
  • With svelte prose, agile wit, and alarming erudition, Owen Hatherley pries open the prematurely closed case of early 20th Century modernism. This slim and shapely, ideas-packed and intensely-felt book is neither a misty-eyed memorial nor a dour inquest, but a verging-on-erotic mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Rediscovering the enchantment of demystification and the sexiness of severity, Hatherley harks forward to modernism's Utopian spirit: critical, radically democratic, dedicated to the conscious transformation of everyday life, determined to build a better world. ~ Simon Reynolds, Author of Rip It Up and Start Again - Postpunk 1978-84
  • A call to have the courage to be modern against all the current postmodern pieties of exhaustion and fragmentation, Owen Hatherley’s brilliant reactivation of the utopian impulses of the modernist avant-garde is Brecht meeting Ballard to create the science-fiction of socialism. ~ Benjamin Noys, Author of Georges Bataille and The Culture of Death
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