Raymond Williams

Raymond Williams

Raymond Williams

Raymond Williams

Synopsis

In his life, Raymond Williams played many parts: child of the Black Mountains, inspirational adult lecturer, Cambridge professor, folk hero and guru of the left. After his death, he has remained a symbolic figure and his classic works, Culture and Society , The Long Revolution , The Country and the City continue to inspire new generations all over the world. In this first major biography, Fred Inglis has spoken to those who knew this complex and charismatic man at every stage of his life, from his boyhood in the Welsh border country to his brief years of retirement. Through their voices and his own passionate stories and at times combative engagement with his subject, he tells of a story of a life not just for its time but for our own. After Thatcher and Reagan and the Cold War, Williams still has much to teach us about the nature of a good and just society and about the constant struggle to attain it.

Excerpt

The death of Raymond Williams was a fearful shock. Only six or seven months before, the British Tory party led with radiant self-confidence and unreflecting arrogance by Margaret Thatcher, had won its third consecutive term of office. President Reagan was just about to be replaced by his own Vice-President. European politics were dominated by a mountainous Christian Democrat in Bonn. The domestic leaders of a once stouthearted and truculent trade union movement in Britain had been roundly defeated by the class enemy in the steelyards and the coalpits. The USSR with its surprising and gentlemanly new leader was making no progress towards an armistice in the cold war. Political radicalism at home and abroad had gone dismayingly quiet.

In a dark time, those substantial numbers of worthy men and women who wanted to keep faith with the great promises of happiness, mutuality, equality held out in socialism's large, rambling and disorderly church were hard put to it to keep their spirits up. Their organisations were always scrappy and impoverished, their efforts at political hospitality intended to keep the light of a few noble ideals shining in the murk always sporadic and often ill-attended. So it mattered like mad that there were still a few people capable of a calm courage when a country's best values were down and out, and defeat so familiar an experience. As long as Raymond Williams and Edward Thompson were still there, still speaking and writing in the splendid rhythms and time-honoured litany of the Labour movement, of common hopes and purposes, of the visible and monstrous injustice and indifference, the cruelty and wrong so apparent in all that mere power and ruling class did, then we could keep up a good heart. If you knew they were still there, even if the knowledge depended only on a newspaper article or two, the odd essay, the books still coming out, maybe a lecture if you were lucky, then you could hang on to hopefulness and spiritedness. You could still fight a bit of a fight locally, at the school, at the hospital, at the factory gates.

Idealism, political energy, hopefulness, they need something to live off, these qualities. They need solidarity and comradeship; they need plausible

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