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Militant Modernism (Zero Books) [Paperback]

Owen Hatherley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 April 2009 Zero Books
Militant Modernism argues for a Modernism of everyday life, immersed in questions of socialism, sexual politics and technology. It features new readings of some familiar names - Bertolt Brecht, Le Corbusier, Vladimir Mayakovsky - and much 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. Against the world of 'there is no alternative', this book talks about things we haven't done yet, in the past tense.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: O Books (24 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846941768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846941764
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.1 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

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.'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pouring concrete for the proletariat 30 July 2010
This is probably the only book you'll ever read that's dedicated to Southampton City Council Architect's Department. Hatherley takes the modernist architecture of his home town (in particular the monoliths of the Weston Shore development - if you've caught a ferry out of Southampton, you've seen it) and uses it as a springboard into a re-examination of the modernist moment in architecture and other arts. His central thesis is that to make sense modernist architecture has to be seen in the context of revolutionary politics: that it is the product of a moment when people believed it was possible to remake society, both in terms of its built environment and of the assumptions and structures that underlie it: Auden's "new styles of architecture, a change of heart."

It's a brisk, bracing polemic - one that can be read quickly (I got through the whole thing whilst waiting for an X-ray in A&E) but whose ideas demand engagement and will stick with you. There's no question that he's right, I think, in his analysis of how modernist architecture was first opposed and vilified on grounds that posed as aesthetic but were probably as much political; and was then, secondly, rehabilitated as "heritage", with sample instances preserved again on "aesthetic" art history grounds, without reference to their ideological underpinnings. The many modernist buildings from the former Soviet Union that he restores to their place in the canon are a salutary corrective to the Cold War-era history of architecture that told the modernist story chiefly through the twin prisms of Germany and the United States; a reminder of how in the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution there was a belief that all aspects of human interaction could be remade and that architecture would both reflect this and help to drive it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary, Mungo & Midge 2 Nov 2012
I have to first admit that I was drawn to this book for personal reasons. The opening chapter includes a photograph of a tower block I lived in as a child, between the mid-sixties and early seventies. I bought the book out of curiosity to see how the author would depict them. I was dreading the usual dirge about substandard housing, poor construction, unruly inhabitants, etc. basically the accepted wisdom (or not) about why this type of building is wrong. Thankfully I was way off the mark. The author turns all these misconceptions on their head. He does not make excuses for poor planning, poor implementation and most importantly poor occupancy management. Rather, his approach is to get to the essence of modernist design; what it evolved from, what does it try to achieve and how can it regain its mojo. What I took from this fantastic little book was a better understanding of how and why these types of buildings undermine the prevailing political consensus and ultimately why they have been pigeon holed, pushed out to the periphery and besmirched; along with the people who occupy(ied) them.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars passionate defence of modernism 28 Aug 2010
Simply on of the best written, most effectively referenced books on Modernist architecture I have read. Gives you new eyes for loving many of the unloved buildings around the world. Definitely not romantic and very well reasoned. I learned more from this book than any other book on Modernism - and really enjoyed his writing.
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