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ELT 36 :1 1993 constants, whether at home or abroad. Patrick Parrinder writes wittily and learnedly of Wells's lifelong quest for a new world, be it in the United States, the Soviet Union or in the outer reaches of space and time. Instead of uncovering long hidden troves of literary/political treasure, these essays concentrate on redistributing emphases and discerning new links among relatively well-known quantities. This does not mean that nothing ever changes, either in travel writing or in literary criticism —foreigners, after all, have grown much less funny than they used to be (though they're still a little funny in a recent novel like Margaret Drabble's Gates of Ivory). It's just that changes of attitude in writers (and critics) tend to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. If, then, by the end of the day The Ends of the Earth may not have turned into what it set out to be or hoped to become—a journey of primarily political discovery into a hidden colonialized literary interior —it is nevertheless something quite as valuable and very much less portentously programmatic: a series of informative and often entertaining excursions into the ways in which the human imagination (in England) has defined itself by imagining others. Peter Firchow University of Minnesota Socialists and Popular Culture Chris Waters. British Socialists and the Politics of Popular Culture, 1884-1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. viii + 252 pp. $35.00 SOME OFTHE MOST interesting work in British social history has focused on leisure and its relationship to popular culture. This is especially true of the years after 1870, when work and play were increasingly separated by the process of industrialization and free time became available to the working class. Shorter hours, a Saturday half day, and annual bank holidays made this possible, as did the rise of music halls, association football, and a penny press. Some leisure activities were a product of authentic popular expression. Most were formed by the needs of capitalism. It is this commercial aspect of leisure which intrigues Chris Waters, whose British Socialists and the Politics of Popular Culture, 1884-1914 raises some penetrating questions. Waters is interested in the political ramifications of leisure, a topic as meaningful today as it was a century ago when an emergent labor movement was grappling with it. Then and now, the core question was how to transform "frivolous" pastimes into serious socialist endeavors. 104 BOOK REVIEWS Is it possible, in other words, to assure that working-class people will not waste their precious political time? "Waste," to be sure, is a subjective concept, which inevitably gives a class dimension to this question. Waters is aware of this, and its explication provides a dynamic basis for his study. "Rational recreation," according to Waters, was the dominant construct shaping socialist attitudes towards leisure in the late nineteenth century. This point of view assumed the right to make moral judgments about popular culture. Drink, sport, gambling, irreligion, noise: it was necessary to bring all of these things under control if only as an example for future action. At its best, such an attitude led to repeated attempts to tame the cultural excesses of the poor, as in the provision of free libraries, public parks, museums, and even (by the 1890s) municipal concerts and art exhibitions. At its worst, it produced a suppressive religious "puritanism" of the kind still to be seen in parts of Britain today. What was missing, in both instances, was a respect for the authentic spatial needs of the poor. Ranged against rational recreation was, in Waters's view, a worse alternative: the cultural straitjacket imposed by profit. During the years 1884 to 1914, he argues, unrestrained market forces tightened their grip on popular culture and transformed it. People began to pay money to enjoy themselves, and the dire result was that they became passive spectators instead of participants. Waters believes that the problem, exacerbated today by modern technology, was susceptible to solution then. Or at least socialists had the right ideas and tried to act on them, which involved encouraging the poor to indulge in freer physical and mental expression. But despite their good intentions and a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 104-106
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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