This is no victory, says Owen Hatherley in Militant Modernism. We are in the grip of Ikea modernism, he argues, which has as much to do with the muscular movement that advanced through Britain after the Second World War as New Labour has to do with Clement Attlee. Modernism, the preserve of the middle classes, is now considered "too good" or too difficult for the disordered masses. It has been supplanted by "sandal-wearing continental modernism, freeze-dried and smug", just another flavour in the aesthetic ice cream parlour of consumer choice, its artefacts annexed by the heritage industry.

In this sparky, polemical and ferociously learned book, Hatherley - an icon contributor - makes his case for a modernist reformation by eulogising some of its less-appreciated past glories. Modernism, far from being just another chapter in the history of architecture or the interior decorator's sourcebook, is nothing if it is not a comprehensive, utopian social programme. As such, it is a potentially useful "index of ideas" for progressives. As you might have guessed, Hatherley is writing from a position firmly on the left - he suggests that modernism provides a blueprint for a radical left-wing alternative to the existing world, a positive proposal for a political persuasion at the moment fixated on protest and rejection.

- bill 5-29-2009 4:44 pm

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