Have one to sell?
Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America Hardcover – 1 Jan 2006
Note: This item is eligible for click and collect. Details
Pick up your parcel at a time and place that suits you.
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
This shopping feature will continue to load items. In order to navigate out of this carousel please use your heading shortcut key to navigate to the next or previous heading.
Customers who bought this item also bought
Page 1 of 1 Start overPage 1 of 1
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
'splendid diatribe ... The reader may sometimes flinch under the barrage of furious one-liners, but nobody could begrudge Hughes the pleasure he must have had in constructing them. Nothing ought to be compulsory reading, but I'd like to think that The Culture of Complaint might accidentally fall into the hands of a few schoolteachers on both sides of the Atlantic.'Times Literary Supplement
'a curious mixture of gritty truth and liberal piety ... On the attack he can be sensible as well as amusing.'Roger Kimball, Sunday Telegraph
'what sets this book apart is the fact that Hughes argues that the right is also guilty of supreme lack of connectedness to reality'Kevin Young, Living Marxism, August 1993
'Political correctness is out to clean up our speech and behaviour. This short book, by an Australian-born art critic who still values America as a Utopian site of experiment and pluralism, lucidly diagnoses where pc has come from and where it will take us if we don't watch out.'The Independent on Sunday
'his local insights are persistently invigorating ... Reading him, you are constantly aware of a mind cutting through sham and cant, doing marvellously trenchant things with language.'John Carey, Sunday Times
'infused with a generous and humorous spirit, of the sort that is indispensable to any authentic manifestation of outrage or impatience ... The immense value of his book is that it wants to uphold pluralism and experiment without compromising or qualifying the thing that makes these things at once possible and worthwhile - namely free inquiry and uninhibited debate.'Christopher Hitchens, Independent on Sunday
'Like all of Hughes's work it possesses not only wit, common sense and learning, but more than its fair share of intellectual courage. His criticism and his histories are so fresh and original in part because he is so shockingly different to what he is meant to think and say.'Michael Lewis, Literary Review
'It is frequently delightful, often very funny, and splendidly abrasive. It is also quite important ... He is also an excellent historian of the deep American roots of a therapeutic aesthetic ideal.'Fredric Paul Smoler, The Observer
'provocative and often amusing book ... throughout his book, Hughes maintains a good sense of humour about the absurd factionalism that has overtaken so much of American political and cultural life.'Michael Sheldon, Daily Telegraph
'it is as spirited and jolly a book as one is likely to find, even as it catalogues a host of grim trends that have overtaken US culture ... an agile and mellifluous quodlibetarian and damned funny too'Jim Holt, The European
From the Back Cover
The best-selling author of The Shock of the New, The Fatal Shore, and Barcelona here delivers a withering polemic aimed at the heart of recent American politics and culture. Culture of Complaint is a call for the reknitting of a fragmented and over-tribalized America - a deeply passionate book, filled with barbed wit and devastating takes on public life, both left and right of center. To the right, Hughes fires broadsides at the populist demagogy of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms and especially Ronald Reagan ("with somnambulistic efficiency, Reagan educated America down to his level. He left his country a little stupider in 1988 than it had been in 1980, and a lot more tolerant of lies"). To the left, he skewers political correctness ("political etiquette, not politics itself"), Afrocentrism, and academic obsessions with theory ("The world changes more deeply, widely, thrillingly than at any moment since 1917, perhaps since 1848, and the American academic left keeps fretting about how phallocentricity is inscribed in Dickens' portrayal of Little Nell"). PC censoriousness and "family-values" rhetoric, he argues, are only two sides of the same character, extrusions of America's puritan heritage into the present - and, at root, signs of America's difficulty in seeing past the end of the Us-versus-Them mentality implanted by four decades of the Cold War. In the long retreat from public responsibility beaten by America in the 80s, Hughes sees "a hollowness at the cultural core" - a nation "obsessed with therapies and filled with distrust of formal politics; skeptical of authority and prey to superstition; its language corroded by fake pity and euphemism". It resembles "lateRome...in the corruption and verbosity of its senators, in its reliance on sacred geese (those feathered ancestors of our own pollsters and spin-doctors) and in its submission to senile, deified emperors controlled by astrologers and extravagant wives". Culture of Complaint is fired by a deep concern for the way Hughes sees his adopted country heading. But it is not a relentless diatribe. If Hughes lambastes some aspects of American politics, he applauds Vaclav Havel's vision of politics "not as the art of the useful, but politics as practical morality, as service to the truth". And if he denounces PC, he offers a brilliant and heartfelt defense of non-ideological multiculturalism as an antidote to Americans' difficulty in imagining the rest of the world - and other Americans. Here, then, is an extraordinary cri de coeur, an outspoken call for the reconstruction of America's ideas about its recent self. It is a book that everyone interested in American culture will want to read.See all Product description
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
on 1 June 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed Hughes' lively and pointed skewering of the apostles of PC and their tiresome love of victimhood. I must question how closely the Kirkus Reviews writer (cited above) read "Culture of Complaint" because the reviewer takes Hughes to task for not addressing some issues in more ponderous depth. The explanation is simple and is provided in the preface: "Culture" was drawn from a series of three lectures Hughes gave at Yale University, and the lectures are presented in the book with a minimum of editing. Heavily-footnoted lectures would have been a sure path to mass narcolepsy among Hughes' original sudiences.
on 28 February 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Developed from a series of lectures given in 1992, Culture of Complaint is a discussion of political correctness, multiculturalism and the politicization of the arts in late twentieth-century America, both in academe and beyond. As an Australian art critic who had then lived in the US for more than 20 years, Hughes has brought the perspectives of both outsider and insider to bear on his topics. Although the book is intelligent journalism rather than an in-depth professional study, it is well informed and its generalisations are supported by specific examples. Hughes also strengthens his discussion by a historical perspective on the place of the arts in American life and politics. Overall, he makes a strong case for genuine tolerance and openness in the reception of the arts and rejects the extremes of both right-wing reactionaries and the politically correct separatists of identity politics. Hughes's short book represents an intelligent, reasonable voice which still has relevance to today's version of the culture wars.
on 1 September 2014
'Political Correctness' was originally a term of art of the Left, not a tag with which to bash it. Hughes is plainly enraged at its inanities, seeing it as a substitute for rather than a form of social action. As one who heard a (teaching) colleague congratulate herself for learning not to say 'Blackboard' and not able to tell me why this was meritorious, like Hughes I am mightily fed up with the mealy-mouthed puritans I 'travel' with who are what Yeats would've called "injustice collectors". Hughes's talks - and they read as such, it is not his finest stylistic hour - lay waste the crass self and other censorship of an often supine Left, taking offence at, say, 'niggardly' (eh? are people really so thick?) and unable to avoid clunkers such as what I saw advertised as a 'ploughpersons' lunch'. The reduction ad absurdum is reached by the PCers themselves and endless fun is had at their expense by populists like the odious Littlejohn. Hughes makes somewhat heavy weather of this but he nails the points and calls out the right people. His targets are like Dickens' Mrs Jellyby: unable to DO much at home, they choose easier targets elsewhere as a substitute for the hard yards they are not tough enough to make where it matters. So good on Hughes for giving them the hammering their stupid, counterproductive selves require. How dare they give the liberal Left a bad name in the pursuit of a chimera.
on 8 August 2011
This is one of those books that you read and enjoy and then remember virtually nothing about the contents, at least for me. It looks at the multi-culturalism wars in the US, sprinkles in some interesting examples, and then ends. I don't mean to be glib, as I respect the author and love his writing style and erudition, but that is all that it meant to me. I can not even remember clearly what his opinion was on multi-culturalism, and I just read it! The book just kind of rambles and I never understood why the author chose to write about the details that he did. That to me is a sign that the essay fails, though others liked it better.
on 3 July 1998
Robert Hughes tries to position himself somewhere in between Karen Finley and Jesse Helms in his essays about the politics of art in America. The result is that he comes out about where the Supreme Court has found itself in June 1998 -- linked to Jesse Helms anyway by critics, despite trying hard to distance himself. He apparently thinks Karen Finley is a fraud, and that's just not what the art crowd wants to hear. It was courageous of Hughes to write the book, which contains the seeds of "American Visions" (also worth reading).
on 15 March 1999
Despite the fact that I agree with most of Hughes' analysis of both the American left and right, this book rubbed me as the ranting of someone who would never dare take a stand and jump into the political fray himself. The title is ironic, considering that the book is one continuous complaint itself. Hughes DOES present sound, well-articulated criticisms of both liberal and conservative movements in the US, which, being a moderate, I find persuasive. However, it is so easy for pundits like himself and those on Sunday morning talking head shows to take shots at politicians from the outside, but don't have the intestinal fortitude to put their views on the line before a diverse, unpredictable electorate. I'll take him more seriously when he's served on the local city council for a couple of years.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?