East and West
Chapter 3: E.P. Thompson and Perry Anderson: A Debate
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E.P. THOMPSON AND PERRY ANDERSON: A DEBATE
The beginning of what may be called the cult of Raymond Williams can be traced back to the two-part review of The Long Revolution by E.P. Thompson in New Left Review. Written in 1961, the article is the initiation of a process that culminated two decades later in the series of interviews with Williams—in the manner one usually sees given by “eminent” European thinkers, like a Sartre or a Lukacs—produced in a big volume under the title of Politics and Letters by the NLR’s own publishing house.
Thompson has no reservations about Williams and his work. “So far we can speak of a New Left,” he declares, “he is our best man.” His work is “very important indeed,” we are told, and it can be ignored by critics, educational theorists, sociologists and political theorists only at their peril. “Even a brief passage of his writing,” Thompson gets carried away, “[has] a sense of stubborn, unfashionable integrity, a combination of distinction and force.”
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