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600 Years Of Defiant Pose

StewartHome4

Wark helpfully walks us through a more recent literary past to give further context to what Home is about, citing Lukacs’s advocating the historical novel, with Balzac as his model, Adorno giving an alternative model, one where ‘language turns back against itself, undoing any forced closures of the social or historical’, and Brecht yet another alternative option, seeing writing as pedagogy to break any ideological hold. Wark thinks they all fall down because they don’t address the proletarian thinker and writer. What Wark argues is that Home is not situating himself with a dominant bourgeois consciousness, and taking his pick of what he does from there, but is looking to get away from that, to make ‘an artful dodge, which picks for itself another place to begin again.’ Even if we pare away the Marxist stuff about the bourgeois, a Nominalist critique of Realist bewitchments (be they Hegelian or Nazi) is clear in this. Let’s prosecute on what is before us, not on ‘airy speculations.’ Let us look at empirical facts and see the evils of the world that need addressing.

Wark’s Home swerves away from Marxist litterateurs and towards the radical avant-garde, and Home has written about this himself. Situationist detournement is a key strategy, a plagiarism that announces its unoriginality (originality being part of the bourgeois consciousness), and if Home thinks Situationist Guy Debord little more than a ‘manipulative crank’ another Situationist, Asger Jorn seems to Wark to have used strategies that are conducive to Home.

Detournment for Jorn was a collaborative process of taking all of the past as a commons to be freed from the old property form and recombined in a new practice in which both form and content, both artistic and proletarian labour, would crucially produce another world for another life…. Crucially… neither the proletarian nor the bohemian should lead each other.

The trouble for Wark was that Jorn saw form-making as the work of the Bohos and the content-making the Prole work, which was a bit disappointing. Still, the move was a start in the right direction.

Defiant Pose for Wark is also a product of punk London subculture too. ‘In Home’s hands, detournement is more a practice of the self-making of popular, working class style and taste.’ Defiant Pose is seen as neither part of literary culture with its fine writing codes nor its ‘more cunning double’, the radical writing scene that faces off with the other ‘Booker’ prize winning lit scene from the same bourgeois origin. Wark’s class analysis allows him to see Home is outside of both of these streams. However he mobilizes the high/ low culture malarkey to say, without parenthesis or sense of irony, that Home uses ‘… resources scrounged from low culture, its diction is that of trash paperbacks, of pulp porn and skinhead novels…’ which is a tad disappointing to those like Tony White, Michael Moorcock and China Mieville, for example, who have been resisting that high/low dichotomy and were doing it back then. But we all lapse and forgiveness is good. Wark goes on to say that he ‘assembles them in a narrative that is not just outside of bourgeois culture, but aggressively and cannily against it.’ Wark sees Home as being pretty hard on the radicals, the leftist section of the bourgeois rather than the more obvious right wing nutters. And it’s true: Trotskyists and Situationists come out of the novel badly, as colluding with the oppressors. And that links up with my linking him to a nominalist/Realist split – it helps queer the pitch, mess up the clear tracks, keeps us all on our toes and thinking even if it’s bollocks.

Wark also notes how sex in the novel is where ‘Home outflanks the bourgeois novel in both directions. Sex is at once hyperbolically utopian in the minds of the fuckees and basely animal as far as their fucking bodies are concerned.’ Here we again can see the Nominalist qua materialist in Home, and as deep down and dirty a break as can be envisaged from any sense of a ‘universal ass.’ ‘Sex is an enduring addiction for avant-garde writers. Even Alexander Trocchi seemed to think there could be something transgressive about it. Home, unlike so many other would-be radical writers, does not take a stand on a sexuality outside of class and the commodity, as if it were the last resource of a flagging romanticism. While Home is bastard heir to so much of the avant-garde and modernist writing of the last century, in this he makes a clean break.’ Interestingly, in his last novel based on the life of a working class cat burglar relative there was no porn sex.

The way Home places his characters is also a boot in the teeth against what we often get, be it a Bolano, Knausgaard, Foster Wallace, DeLillo some perfection from the divine school of Lish or whoever. They are neither working class nor bourgeois but somewhere in between. They want a better life than delivered by normal. Blake, the progagonist of Defiant Pose, is into skinhead music, and according to Wark this is ‘… not a primitive form to be tutored and corrected, but actually to be listened to as evidence of how white working class kids think and feel.’ Wark connects Home to Prolekult, an avant garde movement founded by Alexander Bogdanov whose ‘… mission was to make the working class the collective author of its own culture.’

Wark points out that Home isn’t ‘a class fundamentalist’ but points to how in-your-face this twenty five year old book is about class:

… there is something heretical, then as now, in a writing that is bracingly avant-garde, fiercely fun and funny, and at the same time takes working class experience as both its content and form.

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[Stewart Home with Steve Aylett, Mike Moorcock, China Miéville, Tony White, Billy Childish and others]

Wark worries that ‘we have a bourgeoise literature that exists basically to recycle variants and apologies for a worldview congenial to eighty-five people’ who own half the world’s wealth and sees Home as writing to find a new form and content that won’t do that. And Wark offers a nice overview too on what Home’s been up to since ‘Defiant Pose’: ‘Red London’ and ‘Slow Death ‘by their very drive they could unleash the fiery roll and usher in the new Jerusalem of the ranter revolutionary Abiezer Coppe, ‘69 Things to do with a Dead Princess’, ‘Memphis Underground’ and ‘Mandie, Charlie & Mary Jane’ ask questions about their own composition ‘like Tristam Shandy on speed’: his theoretical work always alive to the possibilities of the avant garde – ‘The Assault on Culture’ a ‘practical enquiry into what was alive in the historic avant-gardes such as Dada, Surealism, Fluxus and the Situationists; his own contributions to this tradition in ‘Neoism, Plagiarism and Praxis’, giving an alternative history of punk in ‘Cranked Up Really High ‘in opposition to the novelty tunes made famous by Malcolm McLaren’; ‘Tainted Love’ showing ‘the wormwood-bitter underbelly of the celebrated London bohemia of the post-war years and revealing the hidden histories and psychogeographies of London in, for example, ‘Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton’.

But it is well to keep clear that Home is not a character in any of these books, certainly not ‘Defiant Pose’. And it is possible, thanks to the lapse of the years and the very different context we’re now in –recall that ’89 when the book was written was the year the Berlin Wall came down – to unbuckle the writing from these undeniably important and relevant sources and features, and read the book differently. The lapidary vehemence clearly comes from a bitter disillusionment with the collapse of the revolutionary idealism and a new sort of writing where the grotesque and the phantasmagoric take new power in a world of distortions. These are caricatural distortions, outrageous inversions of our clichés and his stylistic hyperbole brings an exuberance and imaginative inventiveness that is sometimes not spoken about by his fan base. There’s paranoia and schizophrenia anywhere where the police are in charge or at least are going on around us and Home is alert to this. The frivolous, lighthearted amoral aspects do to his prose what they did to Pushkin’s poetry who ‘… ran great poetry on thin erotic legs and created a commotion.’ Impersonation becomes a way of life and subsistence, and you get the sense that what he’s trying to do is not to repeat a profound tradition of avant gardeism but to think it anew, and do it very personally too.

Home is working at culture in its continuity, its primordial essence, at the lowest, most primitive, underground level, at its most pre and noble form. This contrasts with culture atomized and commodified, co-opted by neoliberal ideological forces that work to appropriate everything. In this sense Home is someone looking to preserve and reinvent that continuity, as if life on earth would lose all meaning if he didn’t. The Russian novelist and critic Sinyavsky wrote that ‘sometimes a writer is free to disregard the facts in order to elucidate them more fully and lend them greater power,’ and if you read Home’s works there’s a bewildering mix of memories and reflections along with the Marxist excursus and ideological illusion. His sarcasm and irony, the stylish mockery of style, they are all misleading us up his garden path. Remember, the Nominalists were moralists who didn’t disinherit their faith. Home’s Nominalism, like his fourteenth century predecessors, gives him room to get on revolutionising the material world whils’t leaving the essences in place. The left may be getting a rough ride but he’s a lefty writer all along nevertheless.

The novel rats out a sense of inescapable determinism . It’s concerned with the behaviour of characters and so the novel is interested in ethics. But without recourse to transcendental premises, how can general significance be established? This is an issue for the Nominalist and Home attacks the problem not by revealing the particular traits and temperaments of the individuals but rather, by presenting characters as cartoon sketches of certain ideas and socio-temporal attitudes that give them their determined historical significance. And though it spins at a weird angle and a different speed, the book does attack the sociopsychological issue of how to reconcile determinism with the fact of guilt and individual responsibility. This is why his dialogue and indeed the whole narrative flair of the novel would collapse if he didn’t build a system of analytical connections that establish how and why a person says what he says, does what he does and that consequently confirm the determined nature of what is being said and is happening. There’s a mad dog naturalism in this which again is very unusual in a modern novel.

Herzen, discussing the literature of the Russian 1840’s wrote that, ‘ everything in fact spontaneous, every simple feeling, was raised to an abstract category and brought back without a drop of living blood, as a pale algebraic shadow’ and there’s something of this ‘pale algebra’ that characterizes Home’s novel. Analytical connections are made to permeate everything so that the facts of the scandalous events portrayed are continually raised to the level of philosophical and historical inevitability. Of course, this is the base of the humour of the book: by defiantly re-posing the pulp fiction of Richard Allen as a materialist Nominalist philosophical drama Home squeezes a whole set of laughs out of the unlikely juxtapositions available whilst giving out the resources to critique his targets. There’s a strong fish being fried here: we’re used to modern writers writing about the inner life, or the hidden essences of writing itself, but only when they get paid loot is what they do valuable. There’s something fishy about inner lives and essences from this perspective and of course that’s why I’ve gone on about the Nominalist realist dispute. ‘If loot’s the thing, then don’t try and blow ‘inner-lives-and-essences’ smoke in our eyes,’ is Home’s argument. Art is just another commodity. It’s about Shopping. His disgust is palpable.

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[Stewart Home and Tom McCarthy]

There’s something endearingly old fashioned about this, in the same way that Tolstoy was old fashioned even as the modernist, psychological novel was being created all around him by both himself and his Russian contemporaries. Lydia Ginzburg writes about this in her ‘On Psychological Prose’ where instead of writing about how prose writing developed from being about epics and the picaresque to states of feeling and stream-of-consciousness, she instead writes about ‘the ways in which character and personality are formed from myriad impressions, sensations, and feelings, under the influence of both internal needs and external models. These models are usually derived from the social norms of a particular period, and very often, from the type of personality-ideal expressed in the literature of that period.’ She traces the development of the psychological novel via the correspondence of Vissarion Belinsky and a young Mikhail Bakunin (pre his revolutionary anarchist, anti-Semitic stage), through memoires of Saint-Simon, Rousseau and Herzen finally to the novelists able to write without the responsibility to fact that constrains the others.

It was Belinsky who called out Bakunin on his anti-materialism. It was St Simeon who was one of the first writers to break all the rules of reigning literary genres and conventions of polite society and its rigid etiquettes whilst writing of the court of Louis XIV. His writing was deemed so rude that much remained hidden in the files of the French ministry of Foreign Affairs for seventy years. Like Home he found prevailing literary conventions stifling, co-opted and complacent. Unlike Home he didn’t know about ‘fluidity of consciousness’ and the way contraries could exist in a single personality. He was a man of his time who thought people were sequences of mechanistic assortments of qualities governed by passions, one following the next. Home writes in a post Freud world where stream of consciousness is not only known about but has become a staid and conservative cliche. It was Rousseau who set writers off writing about all this simultaneous diversity within a character’s motivations, and Herzen who kick-started historical self awareness in the novel which then Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky brought to apotheosis. Both of these are now completely conventional and routinised.

But Ginzberg writes that Tolstoy’s novels had a documentary nature that ‘… freed his heroes from the strict laws governing artistic modelling of the individual human being.’ It’s the break with ‘artistic modelling’ that is relevant to Home. In a sense Home found himself writing into a context where the lessons of psychological existential depth had been well learned and hardened into conventions, the reverse of Tolstoy et al who were writing as those depths were being developed as innovations of the novel. If Home was to defy convention as a writer then he had to write against the contemporary innovations equivalent to those depths and pluralities within a character’s breast. So it was his historical context that drove him to being a Nominalist writer. (Of course, it’s possible to point to a different tradition of the novel’s history. Ginzberg writes about a French line of descent – Mme de Lafayette, Constant, Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert – and there’s an alternative English one, starting say with Defoe that’s coming out of journalism and documentary history. And Home himself has written about the avant garde tradition as being another tradition out of which he might have emerged. The use of detourement has long been a feature of Home’s approach, ‘… the opposite of quotation, of appealing to a theoretical authority that is inevitably tainted by the very fact that it has become a quotation – a fragment torn from its own context and development, and ultimately from the general framework of its period and from the particular option (appropriate or erroneous) that it represented within that framework. Detournement is the flexible language of anti-ideology. It appears in communication that knows it cannot claim to embody any definitive certainty. It is language that cannot and need not be confirmed by any previous or supracritical language. On the contrary, its own internal coherence and practical effectiveness are what validate the previous kernels of truth it has brought back into play. Detourenement has grounded its cause on nothing but its own truth as present critique.,’ as the ridiculed Debord writes in his ‘The Society of the Spectacle‘. He took in Hegel, Marx, Lukacs, Pascal, Schopenhauar and the Christian Bible. Home is surely at ease with this approach, as he is with an Oulipian ‘anticipatory plagiarism’ which combined quotation with Situationist suspicion of it.

The problem of course is that whatever you do you get cornered into a tradition. Raymond Queneau put it briskly: the avant garde are forever the ‘ … rats who must build the labyrinth from which they propose to escape.’ This is Renato Poggioli’s ‘dialectic of antitradition’ set out in 1971 where ‘… the avant garde also has its conventions. In the broad sense of the word, it is no more than a new system of conventions, despite the contrary opinion of its followers. Naturally, its most obvious function involves its anticonventional tendency… the conventions of avant-garde art are often as easily deduced as those of the academy: their deviation from the norm is so regular and normal a fact that it is transformed into a canon no less exceptional than predictable.’ Home nods to this, knowing full well the idiocy of trying to swerve right out of the grip of this, and so makes clear that he’s merely using the techniques to investigate the right wing extremist politics of the anarchists of the time in fictional form rather than buying into any of the ideological beliefs surrounding the avant garde movements that had introduced the techniques in the first place.It’s the vandalism and tourism of ideas for practical use that appeals to Home. And he’s not the first London radical writer to do this: the use of the ‘cento’ or ‘sortes virgilanae’ was top lit hack Hazlitt’s favourite weapon of choice as he attacked authoritarians back in the nineteenth century. Home likes the Debord and Wolman line: ‘ Every reasonably aware person of our time is aware of the obvious fact that art can no longer be justified as a superior activity, or even as a compensatory activity to which one might honourably devote oneself.’ And it is the result of the totalisation of nominalism and the technology that has been built on its back that is responsible for this : ‘ The reason for this deterioration is clearly the emergence of productive forces that necessitate other production relations and a new practice of life.’

Nominalistic’s vision has become the cognitive and economic vision we call modernity. For art to survive it must become ‘ the only historically justified tactic is extremist innovation’- a defiant scandalous art that rips to shreds any remnant of the old art sustained by defeated, authoritarian Realist visions (Church, Monarch, God, etc). Activism, antagonism, agonism and nihilism may seem to be the way forward but mere scandal is rebutted as ‘old hat’ in favour of the double negation, ‘We must push this process to the point of negating the negation,’ as Debord and Wolman say. Everything becomes a dissolution, a movement of negation where grandiosity in art takes it further away from its fulfilment and where fulfilment, by the same logic, is its disappearence. There’s a lot of this in Home’s strategies and tactics. Claude Levi-Strauss’s move from science to myth and to ‘bricolage’ is understood as this shift: ‘ the scientist creating events ( changing the world) by means of structures and the “bricoleur” creating structures by means of events’ keeps everything running along the Nominalist lines until it breaks with the linguistic turn which once more begins to succumb to Realist yearnings. Home plagiarises whole chunks of material from what Claudette Sartiliot has called ‘ the erotics of literary production’ but again, there’s a health warning to this: he’s not a character in his books, his authorial voice is as dodgy as any other, and he’s never been happy with the idiocies of the lit crew who want lit to make them special. The Po Mo gang who show, as Sartiliot puts it, ‘… a metaphysical rivalry for priority and prestige’ in ‘an amorous devotion to the supposedly lost virgin body of language’ against his detonating and defiant Nominalist stance are just as likely to come under (un)friendly fire as any other peddlers of guff.

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[Stewart Home & Lynne Tillman Midtown Manhattan 2012]

So Home is just using the language based conventions of avant garde writing because it has been lying around like a found resource since at least the start of the last century. He can walk into the domain of James Joyce and his ‘commodious vicus of recirculation’, into the looking glass world of Derrida where a quote ‘… represents the presence of the other, as other, but also as other in myself to whom my text is addressed and without whose presence there could be no writing, no thinking, and perhaps even no being’ not because he buys philosophy but because it’s annoying to the people he wants to annoy at the time. That’s why his work is interested in Walter J Ong’s notion of ‘the typographic man’ and the ‘typographic space’ which ‘… works not only on the scientific and philosophic imagination, but also on the literary imagination.’ Formalism and the New Criticism, interested in ‘the word locked into space’, where texts are locked in with all the others – as Ong says, ‘ Printed books did echo one another, willy nilly. At the on-set of the electronic age, Joyce faced up to the anxieties of influence squarely and in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake undertook to echo everybody on purpose…’, were ideas that Home found in the ether and used for his own ends. In ‘Prometheus or the Abduction of History’ Louis Armand reminds us that plagiarism is connected with ‘abduction,’ hostage-taking’and has a comedic structure implying ‘a twofold movement of errancy and return’ which makes discussing the singular meaning of plagiarism impossible:

‘What would it mean to speak, in truth, of a meaning proper to plagiarism, the essence or truth of plagiarism, itself and above all, when at every point the signifiance of plagiarism effectively expropriates itself, is expropriated in advance, deprived of its concept, in every sense like a purloined letter?’ We can hear the insane Nominalist at work here, a return to the mad Occamists spinning their ever more wild and byzantine labyrinths of logic and brilliantly losing the plot. But there’s also the Realist nostalgia also worming about in all this language work, for as Armand says, plagiarism implies both ‘…meaning in particular and in general.’ Home dances with detournement and anticipatory plagiarism recognising that the notions are themselves in a double commitment regarding the Realist/Nominalist dispute.

And yet again, perhaps that earlier, pre-psychological phase of the novel, where the picaresque was dominant, would also be fertile ground to examine Home’s source. There is a vast array of transcription, sampling, intermediality, circulations of intensities and nodes of linguistic charges and psychogeographic practice in what Home is using that links him with a writer such as Sterne. He’s like a bizarre co-agent of Iain Sinclair, an early admirer of Home, mapping less a Joycean re-remembering than an Acker-like desensitising aesthetic of her ‘Empire of the Senseless‘. What he’s not doing is respecting the signatures of others as he works – and I think this lack of respect is what makes him interesting and corrosive in a way that many aren’t. Derrida was someone who liked to talk of being respectful which in this context (of radical avant garde writing) is a singularly mealy-mouthed word. When talking to Derek Attridge Derrida talks about ‘re-creative’ plagiarism in terms of a ‘dual of singularities’:

‘… of writing and reading, in the course of which a counter-signature comes both to confirm, repeat and respect the signature of the other, of the “original” work, and to lead it off elsewhere, so running the risk of betraying it, having to betray it in a certain way so as to respect it, through the invention of another signature just as singular. Thus redefined, the concept of the countersignature gathers up the whole paradox: you have to give yourself over singularly to singularity, but singularity itself then does have to share itself out and so compromise itself.’ Well, first of all, Home has no respect for the sources he raids . His defiance is straightforward and uncompromising. And second, note how Derrida refuses to say whether he’s for Nominalist singularity or Realist universality – in his words, the ‘sharing itself out’ bit. He’s our contemporary Matthew of Cracow, strategically changing sides when it suits him to avoid being burned. It worked – he did become a fat po-mo bishopric.

Another area of influence in Home is a certain interest in technopoetics, ‘the changing role of literacy in the electro-machinic world of the (post)-digital era’ as David Vichnar puts it in his brilliant little book ‘Subtexts‘. The book as hypermedia was an idea just beginning to emerge by the time Defiant Pose was being written, although of course as early as 1965 Theodor H. Nelson had coined the term ‘hyper-text’. But it wasn’t until Home was rapidly putting together his text that the WWW was being put together by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, and not until 1991 when it was published that the Web became available on the Internet. So this aspect of Home’s work – clearly signalled in his Semina novel ‘Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie‘ – was not part of the Defiant Pose novel and is another part of the contemporary scene that makes Defiant Pose interestingly of its time despite still having important things to say about our contemporary time.

But it’s not that we can’t fudge all this. What is Home up to? The truth is probably somewhere in this mix, though who knows exactly.)

Returning to earlier times, what made Tolstoy old fashioned in his context was his use of explanatory narration. Bakhtin wrote that this made Tolstoy retrograde and outmoded. The assertive narrator was for him an artistic defect. But Ginsberg argued against Bakhtin (covertly – according to Joseph Frank, she never made it explicit that this was what she was doing) and Frank says she was ‘… less interested in technique as such and more in Tolstoy’s use of direct discourse to unmask in advance the egoism and vanity that often lie concealed in the most innocuous and banal conversations…’ Tolstoy held a view of inescapable determinism controlling all humans. Atheism and individualism, realism and scientific determinism were the Nominalist antidotes to the inner essences of the metaphysical Realists and this setting was also the one confronting lefty writers in 1989 as their (secular Marxist) religion crumbled. There was this odd connection then with the novelists writing in the nineteenth century as their religion and the old orders sustained by it too began to stall and those witnessing the fall of the Marxist religion in the late 80’s. And what this points to is the fact that Home was not a lone figure but has been for much of the time someone working in a milieu where writers, critics and artists have been collectively looking for a way forward. Steve Aylett, Mike Moorcock, Tony White, Mike Bracewell, Billy Childish, Kathy Acker, Lynne Tillman, Iain Sinclair, Christine Brooke-Rose, Elizabeth Young, Tom McCarthy, Steve Wells, Bridget Penney, Maria Fusco and many many others were seething their way towards their own version of defiant prose. These last twenty five years have been busy.

Home was writing at a moment of crisis for the left, one that has deepened ever since. One response was the development of a poetics of paradigm shifts, perturbations and discontinuities within a seemingly continuous process, ‘punctual evolution on a magnified scale’ as writer Louise Armand has called it. In the face of the triumphalism of neo-liberal capitalism the left became enamored by a nominalist stance that saw all of reality, from immediate perception to the most abstract train of thought as a vast, complex, organized realm of signs. It was an holistic poetics that in a Digital age became increasingly normalized. Where this had once been, as in, say Karel Teige’s ‘Poetist Manifesto’ of 1924, part of a marginal, radicalized avant-garde, it had rapidly become the modus operandi of the marketing executives of a turbo-charged neo-liberal economics and culture. For the last twenty-five years or so has been ‘feeding indeterminacy into the system that riffs for kicks on the aesthetic pleasures of the indeterminate, but assiduously avoids exposure to it: psycho chic’ as Armand swiftly summarises it.

As I’ve said, it’s this po-mo move of the Nominalist left that Home is also attacking in Defiant Pose even as he grabs their codes to do so. If we go back to the original Nominalists, what prevented them winning their fight against the Realists more quickly than they did back in the fifteenth century was partly due to the Occamists becoming so interested in the syllogistic problems of verbal logic that the statement and solutions of dilemmata and the discussion of fallacies took up more and more of their energies until they kind of imploded and lost track of what was needing to be done. Something similar happened with the leftists focus on the po-mo realm of signs which consumed more and more of their energies until they disappeared up their self-contradictons. When Home’s book was written, ‘ Guy Debord’s prose hadn’t been fully absorbed and recuperated by mainstream academia’ and Home writes that, ‘Today it would be impossible for me to write Defiant Pose because the world we inhabit has changed so much from the one I lived in twenty-five years ago… and it should go without saying that I’m super happy that bourgeois literary hacks consider it a worthless and repulsive work. I’m also very pleased to see the book republished in English so that it can continue to do its work of undermining the dominant culture.’

Oddly, I think that Home is wrong about some of what he says here. Sure, much has changed, and he has had to write a different book than the one he wrote back then. Yet one thing that strikes me about our current situation, is that the nihilist pose is still around. Elements of it are visible in some lefty positions as well as in far right ones too. Brexiteers in Europe and Trump Chumpers in the USA feed off many of the tropes that Home is playing with in Defiant Pose. A nasty racist sexist mad fascist anarchic nihilistic rhetoric has found its way out of the nutty underground of idiot vanguard politics and into the idiot foreground of mainstream politics. Post-truth bullshit is the dominant discourse of a mainstream sociopathic politics, with Trump the parade case whilst in the UK the Tories anarchist libertarian strand is just this same nasty nihilism given a polite name. Foreign Secretary Johnson is one such and is a very dangerous and authoritarian politician. And it seems that there are anti-Semite nihilists camped out in the Labour party too, for example. It would seem that a nihilist vanguard politics still has legs, a Realist position that talks down to people and assumes they see and understand what others can’t. The vogue for Ayn Rand is part of this toxic culture. Home’s novel has peculiarly never seemed so relevant as now. As he warns us at the end: ‘Nihilists don’t oppose liberal-bourgeois false consciousness, they simply preserve it in inverted form.’ The big difference is that this toxic nihilism has migrated to the centre of modern industrial society’s politics. So some of the details of Defiant Pose would have to be different if done now than when he was writing back then but it wouldn’t just be because the transport structure has developed. Terry Blake is PM these days. Might one day even be President.

JG Ballard once said: ‘The trouble with Marxism is that it is a social philosophy for the poor: what we need is a social philosophy for the rich. These people were the first to master a new kind of late twentieth-century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed . . .’ Well, we got that with the co-opted tropes and codes of the neo-avant garde which are the perfect idiom of Realist Nihilist, Anarchist Nationalist Neoliberal Bullshit Oligarchy politics. You can’t say Stewart Home didn’t warn us.

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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, August 27th, 2016.