THE YEAR 2000 by Raymond Williams


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Cambridge don Williams (Culture and Society, Keywords), a founder of the British New Left, starts off trying to steer a middle course between the future prospects round in political manifestoes, whose party positions quickly give way to crisis management, and in systematic utopias, which, however visionary, do posit different ways of thinking and acting. His particular kind of forecasting consists of assessing trends and, loosely, searching out interconnections. Williams has done this in the short-term before: included is a chapter from The Long Revolution, written in 1959, entitled ""Britain in the Sixties""--a cogent analysis of the emerging British consumer culture and its effects on British politics. HIS continuation of that analysis here is more meditative and idiosyncratic, and less coherent. There is characteristic attention to specific word usages--like ""class,"" ""consumer,"" and ""employment."" In discussing employment, for example, Williams points to the institution of the wage relationship, the basis of employment, as an important change in the way of viewing work and usefulness. This leads him to ""structural employment""--and the idea, which he considers absurd, that a society can be overmanned. Looking to the future, Williams suggests that we need to think more seriously about useful work, a problem compounded new by the deskilling effects of high technology. He has no problem envisioning a society in which many people engage in the useful work of taking tare of each other; but this is currently seen as ""unskilled"" work, and Williams despairs at the ideological barriers to a genuine service economy. The economic effects of technological change take him, in turn, into the question of nationalism. He realizes that the capitalist market has created an international system, while politicians have exploited nationalist sentiment. Here, however, he gets quite murky--seemingly convinced that the idea of a nation is an anachronism, but still firmly rooted in his place and rime. Williams finally trails off into disconnected observations of the needs to institutionalize democratic practices throughout society, to find new ways of organizing the economy, and to more beyond antinuclear protests to a new way of solving international issues. A disappointment overall--but not without redeeming insights and path-breakings.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Pantheon