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University of Minnesota Press

Over the past three decades, Peter Beilharz has carved out an important space in Australian social and socialist theory. Co-founder of the journal Thesis Eleven, Beilharz’s work ranges from studies of Australian labourism and European social democracy to more general works in socialist and social democratic theory. Alongside these he has written two important works addressing the themes of culture and modernity. One of them is a study of Bernard Smith (Imagining the Antipodes, 1997) and the other is on the Polish émigré sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (2000). The essays collected in Beilharz’s latest volume cover much of his intellectual journey over a period of twenty-five years ‘from socialism, to modernity, via Americanism’, as he titles his introduction. Beilharz well understands that the art of the essay is conversation rather than argument, raising possibilities rather than seeking a single answer. All the essays – engaging, learned, and undogmatic – reflect the kind of pluralistic and open-ended politics that Beilharz is concerned to promote.

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Freud once argued that the pleasure of shit is the first thing we learn to renounce on the way to becoming civilised. For Freud, the true universalising substance was soap; for Annabel L. Kim it is shit; and French literature is ‘full of shit’, both literally and figuratively, from Rabelais’s ‘excremental masterpieces’ Pantagruel and Gargantua and the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom through the latent faecality of the nineteenth-century realists to the canonical writers of French modernity.

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Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel & Why We Lost the Sex Wars by Lorna Bracewell

June 2021, no. 432

Among historians of sexuality, it is customary to stress that there was never just one sexual revolution, but many. There were the pop-culture versions, the countercultural expressions and perhaps most momentously, but least discussed, the everyday or ‘ordinary’ sexual revolution. Or conversely, as French philosopher Michel Foucault so influentially argued in The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The will to knowledge – first published in French in 1976 and in English in 1978, in the very thick of the so-called sexual revolution – there was no liberating sex from the disciplinary and regulatory effects of modern sexuality, already by then at least three centuries old. One of the delusions of the age was that, as we put sexual repression behind us (by saying yes to sex, for instance), ‘tomorrow sex will be good again’.

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The appearance of an idiosyncratic scholarly text addressing the work of a major European film-maker such as Dušan Makavejev is timely, given our increasingly fraught condition as subjects of a world that becomes more convolutedly politicised with every nanosecond. This is a highly political and indeed humanist analysis of a significant body of cinematic work.

Lorraine Mortimer’s introductory assertion that Makavejev’s 1960s and 1970s work is ‘an international touchstone of radical, transcultural and political cinema’ sets the bar high. Mortimer – an academic at La Trobe University – goes on, in this thoroughly researched and heartfelt study, to set an even more daunting goal for herself, stating that her aim is to examine Makavejev’s films ‘historically, locally, politically and aesthetically, highlighting [no less than] their implications for our understanding of the contemporary world’. This is quite a claim, yet, by and large, Mortimer’s text keeps to its word.

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