The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in by Rebecca Bramall (auth.)

By Rebecca Bramall (auth.)

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Extra resources for The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times

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Theorists who have a particular investment in a concept of memory would refute the formulation I have just offered. Barbara Misztal (2003: 56), for instance, argues that ideology and memory cannot be equated, ‘because the main function of ideology is to ensure cohesion, while collective memory can be both of the divisive and the solidifying kind’. Scholars in this field have sought to rescue the concept of memory from becoming ‘a prisoner of political reductionism and functionalism’ 44 The Cultural Politics of Austerity (Confino, 1997: 1395).

These practices constitute a visit to ‘fairyland’, rather than to the realities of austerity Britain. Kynaston’s comments recall the critique of ‘austerity nostalgia’ (Hatherley, 2009b) that I described in this book’s introduction, in which the simulative, superficial and idealized picture of the past that austerity culture offers is found to be lacking. Kynaston, Hatherley, and other critics respond in particular, I suggest, to the fact that austerity culture rarely creates opportunities for developing knowledge and understanding of its historical referent, a tendency that the Sainsbury’s advertisement so clearly illustrates.

42 The Cultural Politics of Austerity I want to suggest that a defensive orientation towards the historical in media and consumer culture, and in particular to representations of the national past, continues to mark contemporary critical discourse, including the critique of austerity nostalgia. Kynaston’s comments – his refusal to recognize austerity culture as ‘memory’ or indeed ‘history’, and his choice of the term ‘fairyland’ – can be aligned quite closely with what Raphael Samuel (1994: 259–73) calls ‘heritage-baiting’, or the critique of spectacular, affective, commodified ‘heritage’ culture.

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