William Morris
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William Morris—the great 19th-century craftsman, designer, poet and writer—remains a monumental figure whose influence resonates powerfully today. As an intellectual (and author of the seminal utopian News from Nowhere), his concern with artistic and human values led him to cross what he called the “river of fire” and become a committed socialist—committed not to some theoretical formula but to the day by day struggle of working women and men in Britain and to the evolution of his ideas about art, about work and about how life should be lived.

Many of his ideas accorded none too well with the reforming tendencies dominant in the labour movement, nor with those of “orthodox” Marxism, which has looked elsewhere for inspiration. Both sides have been inclined to venerate Morris rather than to pay attention to what he said.

In this biography, written less than a decade before his groundbreaking The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson brought his now trademark historical mastery, passion, wit, and essential sympathy. It remains unsurpassed as the definitive work on this remarkable figure, by the major British historian of the 20th century.



Publié par
Date de parution 07 mars 2011
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781604868418
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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"Two impressive figures, William Morris as subject and E.P. Thompson as author, are conjoined in this immense biographical-historical-critical study, and both of them have gained in stature since the first edition of the book was published …. The book that was ignored in 1955 has meanwhile become something of an underground classic almost impossible to locate in second-hand bookstores, pored over in libraries, required reading for anyone interested in Morris and, increasingly, for anyone interested in one of the most important of contemporary British historians…. Thompson has the distinguishing characteristic of a great historian: he has transformed the nature of the past, it will never look the same again; and whoever works in the area of his concerns in the future must come to terms with what Thompson has written. So too with his study of William Morris."
Peter Stansky, The New York Times Book Review
"An absorbing biographical study…. A glittering quarry of marvelous quotes from Morris and others, many taken from heretofore inaccessible or unpublished sources."
Walter Arnold, Saturday Review
"Thompson’s is the first biography to do justice to Morris’s political thought and so assemble the man whole …. It is not only the standard biography of Morris; it makes us realize, as no other writer has done, how completely admirable a man this Victorian was how consistent and honest to himself and others, how incapable of cruelty or jargon and, above all, how free."
Robert Hughes, Time magazine
"Edward Thompson is our finest socialist writer today certainly in England, possibly in Europe. Readers of The Making of the English Working Class, or indeed Whigs and Hunters, will always remember these as major works of literature. The wonderful variety of timbre and rhythm commanded by Thompson’s writing at the height of its power alternatively passionate and playful, caustic and delicate, colloquial and decorous has no peer on the Left. Arguably, too, the strictly historical achievement of the series of studies that extends across the 19th and 18th centuries from William Morris to the rich group of recent essays whose collection is promised in Customs in Common is perhaps the most original product of the corpus of English Marxist historiography to which so many gifted scholars have contributed …. Throughout, his has been the most declared political history of any of his generation. Every major, and nearly every minor, work he has written concludes with an avowed and direct reflection on its lessons for socialists of his own time…. Each of these texts has been in its own way a militant intervention in the present, as well as a professional recovery of the past…. At the same time, these works of history have also been deliberate and focused contributions to theory: no other Marxist historian has taken such pains to confront and explore, without insinuation or circumlocution, difficult conceptual questions in the pursuit of their research. The definitions of ‘class’ and ‘class consciousness’ in The Making of the English Working Class; the critique of ‘base and superstructure’ through the prism of law in Whigs and Hunters; the reinstatement as disciplined imagination of ‘utopianism’ in the new edition of William Morris all these represent theoretical arguments that are not mere enclaves within the respective historical discourses, but form rather their natural culmination and resolution."
Perry Anderson
Editor: Sasha Lilley
Spectre is a series of penetrating and indispensable works of, and about, radical political economy. Spectre lays bare the dark underbelly of politics and economics, publishing outstanding and contrarian perspectives on the maelstrom of capital and emancipatory alternatives in crisis. The companion Spectre Classics imprint unearths essential works of radical history, political economy, theory and practice, to illuminate the present with brilliant, yet unjustly neglected, ideas from the past.
Greg Albo, Sam Gindin, and Leo Panitch, In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives
David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance
Sasha Lilley, Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult
Spectre Classics
E.P. Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary

Introduction: © 2011 PM Press/Peter Linebaugh
William Morris: © Dorothy Thompson 1955, 1976
This edition © 2011 PM Press and Merlin Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be transmitted by any means without
permission in writing from the publisher.
ISBN: 978-1-60486-243-0
Library of Congress Control Number: 2010927785
Cover: John Yates
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
PM Press
PO Box 23912
Oakland, CA 94623
Printed in the USA on recycled paper.
Published in the EU by The Merlin Press Ltd.
6 Crane Street Chambers, Crane Street, Pontypool NP4 6ND, Wales
ISBN: 978-0-85036-680-8
Foreword to the 2011 Edition
Foreword to the 1976 Edition
List of Abbreviations
I Sir Launcelot and Mr Gradgrind
II Oxford Carlyle and Ruskin
III Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites
IV The First Joust with Victorianism
I William Morris and the Decorative Arts
II The Poetry of Despair
III "Love is Enough"
IV Hope and Courage
V Action
VI The ‘Anti-Scrape’
VII The River of Fire
I The First Two Hundred
II The First Propaganda
III The Split
IV The Socialist League, 1885-6: "Making Socialists"
V The Socialists make contact with the masses, 1887-8
VI The Last Years of the Socialist League
VII Towards a United Socialist Party, 1890-96
Necessity and Desire
I The Manifesto of the Socialist League
II William Morris, Bruce Glasier and Marxism
Postscript: 1976
Peter Linebaugh
GIVEN the overall pollution of the seas, the land, the atmosphere, as well as the geological layers beneath the seas, the world, considered as a chemical organization, is undergoing an inversion. Dangerous gases derived from beneath the seas are being consumed on earth and elevated into the atmosphere with dire consequences for the biological organization of the world. As Rebecca Solnit points out, it is "the world turned upside down", although that is not what is commonly meant by the phrase, which was always egalitarian and anti-imperial. 1 Formerly it described spiritual and political revolutions; St. Paul was accused of ‘turning the world upside down’ when he preached universally to all Greeks, Jews, men, women in T h essalonica (Acts 17:6) and supposedly it was the name of the tune played at Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown which achieved American independence ("all men are created equal").
As egalitarian and anti-imperial, E.P. Thompson and William Morris were both communists, and we need communists now as never before. But what does the term mean? I shall try to provide an approach that relies on "the commons", its cognate.
As a founder of an anti-capitalist, revolutionary, working-class organization Morris had to come up with definitions suitable for a political programme: "Well, what I mean by Socialism is a condition of society in which there would be neither rich nor poor, neither master nor master’s man, neither idle nor overworked, neither brain-sick brain workers, nor heart-sick hand workers, in a word, in which all men would be living in equality of condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully, and with the full consciousness that harm to one would mean harm to all the realization at last of the meaning of the word COMMONWEALTH. " 2 Most of the elements of this definition that there may be several types of societies, that the prevailing society is based on the classes rich and poor, that equality is an attainable condition, that overwork and alienation of labour violate human solidarity are derived from the struggles of the early industrial revolution as we have come to know them thanks to E.P. Thompson’s narrative, The Making of the English Working Class (1963). The only point that is distinctly that of Morris is the demand for "unwaste". This is what makes his communism green.
We sense the green again when Morris loses his temper: "It is a shoddy age. Shoddy is king. From the statesman to the shoemaker all is shoddy" he exclaimed to a reporter. "Then you do not admire the common sense John Bull, Mr. Morris?" "John Bull is a stupid, unpractical oaf", Morris replied. At a calmer moment he said, "Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization." That hatred stems from a repugnance of all that was squalid, stupid, dull, and hateful in capitalism and it led to its repudiation root and branch. Morris’s anti-capitalism was nurtured by his study of the romantic poets and to show this is one of Thompson’s achievements.
Morris possessed "a deep love of the earth and life on it, and a passion for the history of the past of mankind. Think of it! Was it all to end in a counting-house on the top of a cinder-heap….?" The question has become more urgent, the counting houses have become skyscrapers, the cinder-heap has become mounds of

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