Tomy Ward Education
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Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Monday, 13 May 2013 15:35

Hannah Arendt

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Hannah Arendt (1906-1925)

Monday, 13 May 2013 11:05

Karl Marx

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Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Monday, 13 May 2013 11:05

Malcolm X

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Malcolm X 1925-1965

Monday, 13 May 2013 11:04

Mario Savio

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Mario Savio 1942-1996

Monday, 13 May 2013 11:04

George Jackson

Monday, 13 May 2013 10:56

A. S. Neill

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A. S. Neill (1883=1973)

Monday, 13 May 2013 10:55

Miles Horton

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Miles Horton (1905-1990)

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 23:00

Harold Walsby

 

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Harold Walsby (1911-1973)

Harold Walsby was one of the most remarkable men I ever knew. We crossed paths only very briefly between my 17th and 21st years, and then he dropped out of my life completely. At the time of our meeting I was a young trainee architectural assistant, studying at Blackburn Technical College and completing my Testimonies of Study for the RIBA. He was 46 but seemed through the inexperienced eye of youth, to be much older – perhaps in his late 50s. He had just moved with a wife and two adolescent children into a small stone terraced cottage up on the moorland not 300 metres from my house.

I had met him at the local Arts Show – a display of the works of local artists in the Mechanics Institute that housed the town library downstairs and an exhibition space above. The whole building straddled the River Irwell which disappeared underground 20 metres upstream. (and which made me always want to pee every time I went to the library).

I had entered a couple of my pen and ink drawings and watercolours in the show - the very first time that I had dared to air my works in public, and was standing, pretending to admire a work that hung next to mine, so that I could see what people had to say about them. Along limped an elderly man with soft eyes and jowls displaying a three-day beard. There was a boy of about thirteen with him. They stopped in front of my works and looked at them for a moment. Then Harold (for that is who it was) gestured towards one of the works and said to his son David, “That drawing there has been done by a young man who is training to be an architect.”

My amazement got the better of my shyness, and I blurted out. “How did you know that?”

Harold turned to me with a gentle smile and asked, “Are they yours, then?” “Yes! But how did you know?”

“I used to be an architectural draughtsman,” he said, and there began a brief but wonderful encounter that was to change my life. Harold, it turned out, had a sculpture in the show – a grotesque life-size plaster human form labelled The Unknown Bureaucrat, an early indication of his lack of respect or tolerance for anything institutional. He mentioned that he met, once a week, with a couple of old friends who shared their ideas on painting, politics and philosophy. He invited me along to their next Thursday night meeting. His friends, it turned out, were retired academics one (Slatterly by name) had been at Manchester University teaching textile technology and had left, I suspect under pressure for having been an avowed communist. The three of them briefly shared this small once-a-week world with my young self and opened up to me a whole universe of literature and critical thought that has shaped everything since.

After the first session, Harold invited me up the hill to his cottage to meet his wife, Dod. We strolled up onto the moorland track as he probed my understandings and beliefs with his incredible analytical skills. On arrival I stepped under the low door-head into a tiny space, modest living/kitchen area which was crammed with his paintings. There were two rooms opening off this, two very tiny bedrooms. I was incredulous that someone of his obvious age, maturity and experience could be living with his family in such a modest way. Over a cup of tea, he told me that he had moved there from St. Ives in Cornwall, where he had made a simple living as an artist. It seemed incredulous that he should have chosen Bacup over St. Ives, and never did discover why. What I did find out (in the numerous walks that came later) was that he had studied Hegelian dialectics and Marx (who was to me at that time still akin to Count Dracula), and that he was a man of profound knowledge.

Over tea he began to pull canvases out from the stacks around the walls – landscapes mostly, in oils, with a rough texture to them in varying muted shades of grey, blue, and green. I saw nothing in his artwork to arrest my attention, although I am sure that this was more a result of the lack of attention and perception of an arrogant teenager that of the artworks themselves. But whatever he thought, he was always respectful, always intent on preserving my dignity, always kind and generous in his comments. It was the beginning of an improbable yet for me significant friendship. Harold’s opened up for me a whole world of metaphysics and his recommended reading of the Mentor edition of The Age of Ideology still graces my bookshelf to this day.

As our friendship grew, I began to imagine in my young mind that I could argue against Harold on important issues and win. The opportunity was not long in presenting itself. Harold wrote a long and impassioned letter to the local newspaper the Bacup Times, decrying the arms race, vilifying the Pentagon and Foreign Office as war-mongers and international terrorists, and telling of the likely outcome of a nuclear confrontation. The year was 1959, I think - four years before the Cuba crisis and at a time when fall-out shelters were in growing demand in the States. Harold was adamant that the emotive language of foreign policy was destined to lead us into Armageddon, unless a higher form of rationality prevailed. Steeped as I was in the Tory jingoism of the post-war years, with ever-present memories of Churchillian rhetoric, I wrote a reply, couched in ill-concealed sarcasm, explaining that the cold war was an inevitable result of Soviet expansionism and that the “Free World” needed to stand fast to resist the downfall of civilisation as we know it. I suggested that his own arguments were what one would inevitably expect from a person with such Communist sympathies. I waited eagerly to see if he would respond.

He did, gently but firmly and with no personal animosity, dissected my arguments. demonstrating their contradictions and in the process leaving me with nowhere to go, conceptually. Then he gently, and publicly put me back together. When I next visited him I was received with undiminished warmth and affection, and no mention was made of my foolish indiscretion. It was yet another lesson in human dignity from this intellectual aristocrat. I began to realise that, through a lifetime of toil and disappointment he had grown increasingly compassionate where others whither and grow increasingly more bitter and petrified. His wrinkled face and his gammy leg were the only marks of hardship that life had made upon his body. Below the surface he was enormous, huge. Where others relent, he had grown, for truly, he saw only the marvellous in life. Its magic, its mystery, were always at the forefront of his mind, always in step with his every action and utterance: complete, humble compassionate, tender, gracious, grand..

Following the public encounter,, we would occasionally walk together across the moors close to his house. As we walked, him shuffling along with his polio-crippled leg, he would utter the most profound critical and analytical analysis on a vast range of subjects – not only Marx and Hegel, but Bertrand Russell (with whom he had been connected in the 1950s), chess (he was taught by a grand master), the balance of power, birth control, Freudian and Jungian analysis, the Nuclear Arms race (he was a founder-member of CND as I was to learn later to my own cost), Algebra, Design, Existentialism, cooking, farming, Botany, Astronomy, Art, Architecture. There was never a subject that I might raise about which he did not have a deep and extensive understanding. He was my first experience of a public intellectual. Yet he was self-taught.

He told me that he left home at the age of 15 and got a job drawing bathroom details in a London architect’s office. Tiring of this almost immediately, he left again to bum his way around London from odd job to odd job. It was during this period that he came into contact with Dylan Thomas, and lived for several years in Soho, drinking wine and living what we would now call a Bohemian existence. It was here that he met Russell also (whose prolific writings he knew almost by heart, and with whom he committed himself to the CND movement. I was later to discover that he was remembered by those who knew him in his Soho days as familiar figure there and in Trafalgar Square a formidable debater in matters of logic and the Dialectic.

Harold and his family moved away from Bacup in 1959 I seem to remember, no doubt because there was little market for works of art in the industrial valleys of the Irwell and Calder. He moved instead to the Lake District, drawn no doubt by the prospect of a better reception for his painterly talents. The family moved into an old barn and outbuildings in Grasmere, opposite the studio of Heaton Cooper the well-known watercolourist and a quarter of a mile or so from Wordsworth’s cottage. We kept in touch and I visited him there several times, hitch-hiking the 100 miles or so from my home.

Surrounded by mountains, and engulfed in rain and winter snows for over half of the year it must have been a truly inhospitable place to settle with a family – notwithstanding Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils” that would emerge every spring. The old building leaked like a sieve. Initially they occupied one corner of the building that had previously served as a doss house for the stable hands. The Westmoreland green slate walls were invariably damp and refused to hold even a smear of plaster. Icy water gurgled ice cold from an old tap into an old stone slop-sink, and there was no heating save for a small and noisy fan heater that failed to make a dent in the Wintry blasts that leaked through the cracks. I remember being amazed at the Spartan condition in which the family were living and at their truly pioneering spirit. Most of their time appeared to be taken up in building kilns and knocking the second floor gallery into shape for art displays. It was rare that they could find the time to devote some attention to improving their living conditions.

To earn some money for food, Harold’s son David would labour in the mountains, digging field trenches for the local farmers, while his daughter earned a meagre living serving coffees in the local cafés during the tourist season. Apart from this, they appeared to have nothing. All of their savings seemed to have been buried into the purchase of this derelict old building and a supreme act of faith in their ability to prosper. They all slept together in a 120 metre square room and ate in the one room withy a water supply which served as a kitchen and living area. It seemed incredible to me that someone could risk so much for so little on the borderline of what is normally considered to be “retirement” (although in retrospect I have to confess that I had never asked Harold his age and just assumed him to be older than he in reality was).

When I would visit, he would take time off from the day to day chores to walk with me along the valley, marvelling at the flowers and listening to the birds calling across the valley floor. Occasionally, I would hike over the mountains from Ullswater, along Striding Edge and down from Helvellyn into Grasmere, on those occasions envying Harold the courage that had allowed him to make such a dramatic shift. In truth, it was his courage that I remember most – not just the courage to undertake a life of economic uncertainty that would be daunting to most people, but also the intellectual courage of a man who was his own free thinker, who refused to be institutionalised or to embrace the dogmas and taken-for-granted realities of other so-called intellectuals. His grasp of and commitment to the dialectic with which he dissected the logics of everyday life were applied with equal measure and courage to his own.

Once the Grasmere complex was habitable and more comfortable Harold and the family moved again – this time to Ambleside, but by that time I had also moved on, to Birmingham, London, Portsmouth and eventually California, and I never saw him again. My last contact was sometime in 1964, when, as usual, I had hitched a ride to visit him, and leaving too late to get to the M6 motorway before dark. I got stuck somewhere near Kendal at midnight, on a freezing cold night. I managed to get back to Grasmere and dossed down in one of the outbuildings, not wanting to wake the family. I left early in the morning before they were awake and left a not saying goodbye. I had no idea then that it would be our last communication.

Epilogue

All that has gone before was written sometime in 1973 in Berkeley, California and about the approximate time (as I later learned) that Harold died of a heart attack in Ambleside. I wrote it then, because I wanted to have a record of the remarkable man who had had such an impact upon my young adult life and upon the entirety of my intellectual growth and maturation. It was written as a tribute to a friend – one of the many “elders” who have guided me throughout my life. I hoped, as one does in the ignorance of youth, that my words would be a record of an otherwise unknown and unheralded intellectual giant. I had never had the time or intellectual capacity to master Harold’s own grasp of philosophy, phenomenology of Hegelianism. I had simply known that there was a man, an elderly kind friend, who needed to be heard by those who consider themselves to be intellectuals. My written piece lay dormant until this year (2008), when, leafing through old manuscripts to upload onto my website, I came across it once again, and decided to post it there.

I imagined that Harold must now be dead, and decided to Google his son David, to see if I might make contact and find out what had happened in those last forty years of silence. Nothing. On another impulse, I decided to Google Harold himself, and was astonished to discover that which I should have known all along – that Harold Walsby was, indeed, famous; that my old friend had, indeed, been recognised as one of the foremost critical theorists of his time in Britain; that in the 1930s when Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Reich were promulgating their critique of Marxism, Harold Walsby was pre-empting them all and developing parallel and much more incisive critiques of Marxism that were later to be published in his seminal 1947 work The Domain of Ideologies: A Study of the Development and Structure of Ideologies.

I was to discover that Harold even has a society named after him – the The Walsby Society– convened shortly after his death in 1973 by a group of friends and fellow theorists, amongst them his friend and colleague George Walford with whom he had formulated the theory Systematic Ideology (as it was renamed by Walford in 1976) – the study of ideologies – in the 1930s.

The group they formed was a breakaway from the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Like their counterparts in Frankfurt, they were interested in understanding the failure of Marxism to capture the public imagination of the working class. The theory they developed was expressed by Harold Walsby himself in his 1947 book The Domain of Ideologies and those involved in the group set up an organisation to propagate their views called the Social Science Association, which existed from 1944 until 1956. It was later succeeded by the Walsby Society after Harold’s death and the journal which emerged from it called Ideological Commentary.

Unlike their Frankfurt counterparts, however, they chose to interrogate not just the nature and internal contradictions of Marxist ideology in particular, but of all ideologies in general, Harold’s realisation that not merely dialectical materialism but materialism in general was inherently self-contradictory (in the sense that it postulates a completely objective reality independent of or essentially unrelated to the knowledge of it, which however is and can only be a mere abstract concept and thus completely subjective) brought him to a general systematic critique of Marxist political assumptions, especially in far as they turn on the view that men's consciousness is basically formed by or dependent on their material conditions of existence and by the ownership of the means of production.

Furthermore, it was clear to Walsby and his associates that ideology is the central motivator in human affairs; that the characteristics that make up the major ideologies occur in sets; that those sets of characteristics form a series; and that the ideological series forms a system. These systems are not, as Marx, suggested, derived from the material conditions of society or from the ownership of the means of production, but from deep-seated cultural beliefs in essentially conservative values – family, authority, tradition and familiarity. According to the theory the (conservative) ideologies will inherently have the most adherents and these will hold sway in any political situation. The ideology most able to encompass these values will therefore have the best chance of establishing its hegemony. The theory was criticised as bordering on determinism – a revisionist theory of human nature in which evolved individuals were able to progress to less populist but more accurate understandings of social and ideological reality.

In 1976 Harold produced another important work – one that he had no doubt been working on during our many conversations about Hegel, the dialectic and mathematics. The Paradox Principle and Modular Systems Generally attempted to expose the inherent contradictions in mathematical theorising, demonstrating how Aristotle’s famous principle that something cannot be and not-be at the same time imposed a false and misleading horizon on theorising and that a reconceptualisation of the place of Zero in mathematics was a necessary corollary to moving beyond the stultifying orthodoxy of the time. Alongside his earlier dialectical analysis of ideology, this work parallels and in some ways reflects that of Heisenberg in which such contradictions are accepted as commonplace in quantum physics. It came, moreover, out of a concern for Design. In 1967, after I had seen him of the last time, he published a piece called Special Announcement to Potential Subscribers. There, he once again undertook a critique of the limits imposed by Aristotelian thinking and its aversion for contradiction. He applies this reasoning to Design, reminding us in the process that improvements in quality come in the first place:

“..through increased understanding of opposition and conflict, e.g. within oneself, or in others, or even in the arts and activities of everyday life, including one's own thinking - this latter, being central, results in greatly increased flexibility of thought, with accompanying feelings of liberation from the constraints of past ways of rigid thinking, and therefore in greater self-control generally”

These characteristics and the spatial arrangements that are contingent upon them were recognised as being self-evidently common in everyday life and discourse, and therefore as essential elements in unconscious formulations. He had recognised for some time that ordinary language is permeated with direct and indirect references to height and width, and from this he set out to explore the wealth of associations with vertical and horizontal alignment, etc., integrating his mathematical analyses with his artistic and aesthetic work. The general disposition of this relationship and its relevance for the creative process had been pointedly outlined earlier by no less a mathematician than Albert Einstein:

"The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The physical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily reproduced and combined... Taken from a psychological point of view, this combinatorial play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought - before there is any connection with logical in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others. The above mentioned elements are, in any case, of visual and some muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will. According to what has been said, the play with the mentioned elements is aimed to be analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for. In a stage when words intervene at all, they are, in my case, purely additive, but they interfere only in a secondary stage as already mentioned."

Looking back I see intimations in my own work in Gestalt Therapy and Design as Harold continues with his analysis, recognising life as an element of “flexibility” – seemingly paralleling the earlier theories of Wilhelm Reich. He speaks of the “balance” of opposites, indicating in the process a reciprocity between the inner world of the designer and the geometric and relational quality of the thing designed. In this writing he attempts to integrate his abstract work in mathematics and Hegelian logic with his “other” life as an artist – the man that I knew.

In the last ten years of his life he moved beyond his analysis of spatial relationships and, like Henri Lefebvre devoted his attention to what he termed the “last problem” – that problem of time and continuity. Sadly, his thoughts was never articulated in print. One wonders what extraordinary insights Harold Walsby might have left for us to ponder had he lived longer

All of this is, as I say, a complete revelation to me who as a young man, was accepted as a friend by this remarkable theorist. At no time during our friendship did he allude either to his writings or to his important place in the intellectual community of the mid-century. And I for my part was too immersed in the enjoyment of having my own contradictions lovingly unpacked to bother to look beyond my own gratification - to the reality and history of my interrogator. Harold simply accepted me, supported me intellectually and emotionally, and unleashed a curiosity which has carried me a long way. I thank him, belatedly for that. I find it remarkable now, looking back over the intervening fifty years since we met at the intellectual trajectory my own life has taken – not least in the direction of Marxism, Critical Theory, Education and Design. The most extraordinary part of all this is that as I sit now, typing the concluding thoughts to this homage to a departed friend, I realise for the first time, at the age of 66, what a remarkable influence he has had on my life and how deeply he must have planted the seeds of curiosity in the mind of a self-involved teenager.

References:

 
 

Peter Milo Shepherd, The Walsby Society
  1. Wikipedia Systematic Ideology

Nationmaster, Harold Walsby


The Socialist Party of Great Britain, "Harold Walsby and ‘Systematic Ideology’ in: Getting Splinters

John Rowan, Mystical Experiences

 
The George Walford International Essay Prize: Books and Pamphlets
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 22:59

E. P. Thompson

e.p.thompson

E. P. Thompson (1924-1993)

A large part of this biography is taken from Wikipedia which has provided an excellent and concise review of Thompson and his works.

Biography.

Thompson was an English historian, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, in particular his book The Making of the English Working Class (1963), but he also published influential biographies of William Morris (1955) and (posthumously) William Blake (1993) and was a prolific journalist and essayist as well as publishing one novel and a collection of poetry. He was one of the main intellectual members of the Communist Party who left the party in 1956 over the Soviet invasion of Hungary, and he played a key role in the first New Left in Britain in the late 1950s. He was a vociferous left-wing socialist critic of the Labour governments of 1964-70 and 1974-79, and during the 1980s he was the leading intellectual light of the movement against nuclear weapons in Europe.

He was born in Oxford to Methodist missionary parents and educated at Kingswood School, Bath. During World War II he served in a tank corps in Italy, and then studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he joined the Communist Party. In 1946 he formed the Communist Party Historians Group along with Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Rodney Hilton, Dona Torr and others. This group launched the influential journal Past and Present in 1952.

Work.

Thompson's first major work was his biography of William Morris. It was part of an effort by the Communist Party Historians' Group to emphasise the domestic roots of Marxism in Britain at a time when the Communist Party was under attack for always following the Moscow line. But it was also an attempt to take Morris back from the critics who had emphasised his art and downplayed his politics for more than 50 years. As Thompson noted:

“William Morris was the first creative artist of major stature in the world to take his stand, consciously and without shadow of compromise, with the revolutionary working class: to participate in the day-to-day work of building the Socialist movement: to put his brain and his genius at its disposal in the struggle. It is no small matter for a man of fifty, in the face of the ridicule of society, the indifference of wife and friends, to set aside the work he loves and fashion his life anew. But this is what Morris did...His was the steady enduring courage of the realist, which upheld him in all the drudgery, committee wrangling and trivial duties of the movement... Morris will always occupy a position of unique importance in the British revolutionary tradition"

In 1956, after Khruschev revealed that the Soviet party leadership had long been aware of Stalin's crimes, Thompson started a dissident publication inside the CP, called The Reasoner. Six months later, he and most of his comrades left the party in disgust at the Soviet invasion of Hungary. But he remained what he called a "socialist humanist", and with others set up the New Reasoner, a journal that sought to develop a democratic socialist alternative to what its editors saw as the ossified official Marxism of the Communist and Trotskyist parties and the managerialist cold war social democracy of the Labour Party and its international allies. The New Reasoner was the most important organ of what became known as the "New Left", an informal movement of dissident leftists closely associated with the nascent movement for nuclear disarmament in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The New Reasoner combined with the Universities and Left Review to form New Left Review in 1960, though Thompson and others fell out with the group around Perry Anderson who took over the journal soon after its launch. The fashion ever since has been to describe the Thompson et al New Left as "the first New Left" and the Anderson et al group, which by 1968 had embraced Tariq Ali and various Trotskyists, as the second.

 

Thompson subsequently allied himself with the annual Socialist Register publication, and was (with  Raymond Williams and  Stuart Hall) one of the editors of the 1967 May Day Manifesto, one of the key left-wing challenges to the 1964-70 Labour government of Harold Wilson.

 
 
 

Thompson's most influential work was and remains , published in 1963 while he was working at the University of Leeds. It told the forgotten history of the first working class left in the world in the late-18th and early-19th centuries. In his preface to this book, Thompson set out his approach to writing history from below:

"I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the 'obsolete' hand-loom weaver, the 'Utopian' artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions may have been dying. Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been fantasies. Their insurrectionary conspiracies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experience; and, if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives, as casualties".
 

A major work of research and synthesis, it was also important in historiographical terms: with it, Thompson demonstrated the power of an historical Marxism rooted in the experience of real flesh-and-blood workers. It remains on university reading lists 40 years after its publication. He wrote the book whilst living in Siddal, Halifax, West Yorkshire and based some of the work on his experiences with the local Halifax folk.From their stories, Thompson excavates a whole new landscape of forgotten history and colonisation and he draws a very clear and revealing picture of the Enclosures, and what they meant for the common folk of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

The process of colonisation abroad was synchyronous with and continued with the Enclosures, which legally created a "private" space, where before had existed only the "commons". Thompson’s classic work solidly establishes the role of the appropriation of space by capitalists and gentry through the intervention of the state as an indispensable ingredient in the conditions which allowed the development of industrialised capitalism. He is worth quoting at length:

“(Regarding the impact of the Enclosures) we may still sketch certain of the general processes at work in many parts of the country. And first we should remember that the spirit of agricultural improvements in the eighteenth century was impelled less by altruistic desires to banish ugly wastes - or, as the tedious phrase goes - ‘to feed a growing population’ than by the desire for fatter rent-rolls and larger profits....The arguments of the enclosure propagandists were commonly phrased in terms of higher rental values and higher yield per acre. In village after village, enclosure destroyed the scratch-as-scratch-can subsistence economy of the poor. The cottager without legal proof of rights was rarely compensated. The cottager who was able to establish his claim was left with a parcel of land inadequate for subsistence and a disporoprtionate share of the very high enclosure cost. Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery, played according to fair rules of property and law laid down by a parliament of property-owners and lawyers... it is possible to overlook the larger fact that what was at issue was a redefinition of the nature of agrarian property itself."

Thompson shows how this rupture was neither accidental nor unsystematic. It formed part of a historical programme of dispossession of the peasants from the existing means of production, the destruction of the spatial relations of the existing means of production and the superimposition of a whole new spatial order.

“Copyhold (landholding by virtue of ‘copy of court roll’) and even vaguer customary family tenancies (which carried common rights) might prove to be invalid at law although they were endorsed by the collective memory of the community. Those petty rights of the villagers, such as gleaning, access to fuel, the tethering of stock in the lanes or on the stubble, which are irrelevant to the historian of economic growth, might be of critical importance to the subsistence of the poor....Enclosure, indeed, was the culmination of a long secular process by which men’s customary relations to the agrarian means of production were undermined. It was of profound social consequence because it illuminates, both backwards and forwards, the destruction of the traditional elements in English peasant society.”

The re-spatialisation of the landscape, and through it, the transformation of the relations of production took place not only through the Enclosures in Britain and Europe, but on a global scale, where the spatial basis of capitalist expansion and production was extended to the appropriation of indigenous lands, their surveying, their mapping, and most of all their legal allocations under individual titles, destroying not only the relations of and between tribal and extended family groups to the land, but through the land, through the means of production. Nor has the process been confined to indigenous peoples. The spatialisation of the landscape has, since the early 1800s, been at the same time both the most profound and the least noticed of capitalism's inexorable transformations.

In 1967, while still at Warwick, Thompson extended his analysis of the respatialisation of British Society through the Enclosures with a study on Time. His influential Time, Work and Industrial Capitalism (1967), published in Past and Present sought to show how the development and growth of capitalism would have beenimpossible without the equal colonisation of time - that is, the displacement and replacement of indigenous and collectively understood conceptions of time (based upon natural phenomena and folk wisdom and experience) and the imposition by the State and capitalist binterests of by mechanical clock time. His analysis paralelled that of Henri Lefebvre, who, working in the reverse orrder, first undertook a critical review of the Marxist obsession with time, before developing his critical theories of space.

 

Thompson left Warwick University in protest at the commercialisation of the academy, documented in the book Warwick University Limited (1971). He continued to teach and lecture as a visiting professor, particularly in the United States, but increasingly worked as a freelance writer. He turned to freelancing, contributing many essays to New Society, Socialist Register and historical journals. In 1978 he published The Poverty of Theory, (here he famously describes counterfactualism as "unhistorical shit") which attacked the structuralist Marxism of Louis Althusser and his followers in Britain on New Left Review, and which provoked a book-length response from Perry Anderson, Arguments Within English Marxism.

During the late 1970s he acquired a large public audience as a critic of the then Labour government's disregard of civil liberties his writings from this time are collected in Writing By Candlelight (1980).

From 1980, Thompson was the most prominent intellectual of the revived movement for nuclear disarmament, revered by activists throughout the world. In Britain, his pamphlet Protest and Survive, a parody on the government leaflet Protect and Survive, played a major role in the revived strength of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Just as important, Thompson was, with Ken Coates, Mary Kaldor and others, an author of the 1980 Appeal for European Nuclear Disarmament, calling for a nuclear-free Europe from Poland to Portugal, which was the founding document of European Nuclear Disarmament. Confusingly, END was both a Europe-wide campaign that comprised a series of large public conferences (the END Conventions), and a small British pressure group.

Thompson played a key role in both END and CND throughout the 1980s, speaking at innumerable public meetings, corresponding with hundreds of fellow activists and sympathetic intellectuals, and doing more than his fair share of committee work. He had a particularly important part in opening a dialogue between the west European peace movement and dissidents in Soviet-dominated eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, for which he was denounced as a tool of American imperialism by the Soviet authorities.

He wrote dozens of polemical articles and essays during this period, which are collected in the books Zero Option (1982) and The Heavy Dancers (1985). He also wrote an extended essay attacking the ideologists on both sides of the cold war, Double Exposure (1985) and edited a collection of essays opposing Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars (1985). Thompson was one of the most dearly loved British Socialists.

To download my own three-PDF Critical Theory of Space click here

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 22:59

Thomas Szasz

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  • CONSUME
  • EMPATHY
  • 99%rise
  • INCARCERATED AMERICANS
  • PLANTING
  • JAILS
  • monopoly
  • HYPOCRICY
  • Ban governments
  • hold your breath
  • ISRAELI NUKES
  • DEMOCRACY
  • FIND A WAR
  • haliburton
  • ONE ACTION
  • INDIVIDUALS
  • gitmo
  • COLUMBUS
  • war on poverty
  • 100 million
  • weapons of war
  • bull
  • which terrorist group-
  • all you need is love
  • COMPASSION
  • PEOPLE POWER
  • who rules over you
  • greedy americans
  • corporate greed
  • OIL INDUSTRY
  • kozol
  • DEeborah Meier.1
  • cleanup
  • zappa
  • make some trouble
  • ISRAELI NUKES2
  • too late
  • garcia
  • F35
  • you pay
  • WOMEN
  • voltaire
  • castro
  • chris hedges
  • pension
  • PALESTINIANS
  • peaceful
  • exxon mayflower
  • decade of war
  • distant burocrats
  • israel aid
  • freedom.terrorism
  • ANARCHY
  • truth.treason
  • Kindness
  • NEW WORLD ORDER2
  • orwell
  • GMO FOOD
  • freire quote
  • conspiracy
  • jesus.socialist
  • committment
  • COMPETITION
  • africa
  • DO SOMETHING
  • WMD-Found
  • tax dollars
  • bending
  • PYRAMID