C3RI Research Seminar - ‘More Open and Tolerant, Less Macho and Miserable’: This Life, New Britain and the Sixties as unfinished business with Chris Goldie
Speaker: Chris Goldie - Communications and Media, Sheffield Hallam University
Chris Goldie’s research has concerned cultural modernisation in 1960s Britain. An article about the Post Office Tower aimed to locate this icon of early sixties architectural modernity within a much broader post-war history of welfare state culture, in particular addressing issues of unequal access to public space; he has written about the emergence of new cultural spaces of disaffected minorities in the early 1960s; An overarching interest is in the dynamics of the public sphere (its expansion but also its restructuring) in the post-war period in the context of changing class relations.
Title: ‘More Open and Tolerant, Less Macho and Miserable’: This Life, New Britain and the Sixties as unfinished business
‘More Open and Tolerant, Less Macho and Miserable’ was Jonathan Freedland’s interpretation in The Guardian in 1997 of the transformation in national character that he thought to be occurring in the wake of Labour’s election victory. Although Freedland doesn’t cite historical precedents for this cultural revolution there are allusions to the 1960s in his article, and others writing in The Guardian (Anthony Barnett at the end of 1997) were more explicit in suggesting that ‘New Britain’ represented the resumption of a modernisation project begun in the 1960s but arrested and reversed during the Thatcher/Major years.
The complexity of the legacy of the sixties was rarely addressed in the various, short lived, ambivalent celebrations of New Britain in the 1990s but this paper will argue that some of its cultural manifestations, if divorced from the fleeting circumstances of their moment, reveal a deep connectedness to the historical conjuncture of the 1960s. The series This Life exemplifies this: declared to represent a decisive break with the doleful seriousness of the British TV drama of the past, a closer and retrospective reading reveals the presence of characters and themes with origins in sixties social realism, which dramatise some of the still unresolved contradictions and dilemmas of the period.
The paper draws from two theoretical approaches: it reactivates older critical approaches to social realism in which the relationship of depiction to the social position of the audience is central; and it uses Stuart Hall’s adaptation of the concept of an historical conjuncture in which he theorises the relationship between new modalities of moral regulation and transformations in class relations. Taken together these allow for an interpretation of the legacy of the sixties in the nineties in which the emphasis is on continuity and contradiction.
Please email Rachel Finch to book your place.