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From Self-fulfilment to Survival of the Fittest: Work in European Cinema from the 1960s to the Present

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    From Self-fulfilment to Survival of the Fittest
    Book Description:

    Contrary to the assumption that Western and Eastern European economies and cinemas were very different from each other, they actually had much in common. After the Second World War both the East and the West adopted a mixed system, containing elements of both socialism and capitalism, and from the 1980s on the whole of Europe, albeit at an uneven speed, followed the neoliberal agenda. This book examines how the economic systems of the East and West impacted labor by focusing on the representation of work in European cinema. Using a Marxist perspective, it compares the situation of workers in Western and Eastern Europe as represented in both auteurist and popular films, including those of Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson, Jean-Luc Godard, Andrzej Wajda, DusanMakavejev, Jerzy Skolimowski, the Dardenne Brothers, Ulrich Seidl and many others.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-487-8
    Subjects: Film Studies, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    I believe that we live at a time when technological and cultural inventions should save the vast majority of people from unpleasant and dangerous labour, and ensure a prosperous life for everyone. I am not alone in this conviction. Eric Hobsbawm writes in his last book, ‘Our productive capacity has made it possible, at least potentially, for most human beings to move from the realm of necessity into the realm of affluence, education and unimagined life choices’ (Hobsbawm 2011: 12). Yet, these ideals, even in traditionally affluent Europe, appear further away than fifty, forty or even twenty years ago. Unemployment...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Homo Faber and the Work of Cinema
    (pp. 9-45)

    Everybody seems to know what ‘work’ means, but this concept is difficult to pinpoint. As Maurice Godelier observes, in Indo-European languages, general terms such as the English verb ‘to work’ and the French ‘travailler’ entered dictionaries relatively late, replacing words that referred to varied types of activities, for example agricultural work and artisanal work. In most languages there are still two words used for similar activities; in English these are ‘work’ and ‘labour’. The word ‘labour’, derived from the Latin ‘laborare’, imparts a sense of pain. Work does not have negative connotations; work is regarded as ennobling, as in the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The 1960s: In Search of Self-fulfilment
    (pp. 46-99)

    The wide consensus is that the 1960s were good for work and good for European cinema. Although ‘miracles’ and ‘small stabilisations’ (after clearing the rubble and rebuilding what was destroyed in the Second World War) began in the 1950s, the social benefits came largely in the 1960s (Booker 1969; Marwick 1998:8; Mazower 1998:296–316; Judt 2007:324–59). At this time the income per capita went up and standards of living improved across practically the whole of Europe. As Christopher Booker reminisces: ‘There was suddenly more money around than would have seemed imaginable to any previous generation, and every year that...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The 1970s: Seeking Change
    (pp. 100-150)

    In the previous chapter I described the 1960s as a decade that was good for labour in Europe, with high levels of employment, relatively high wages and opportunities to move up the social ladder. This was reflected in European cinema through the focus on characters searching for self-fulfilment rather than the necessities of life. From the perspective of the economy and politics, the 1970s constitute a watershed. At the beginning of the decade, they conformed to the rules set out by Ford and Keynes. By its end they took a new direction; the values that informed the first thirty or...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The 1980s: Learning to Survive
    (pp. 151-197)

    The 1970s were turbulent years, filled with political struggle, whose outcome at the time was difficult to predict. Yet as David Harvey wrote in the introduction to the 2006 edition of hisLimits to Capital: ‘The solutions that emerged victorious (though very unevenly) from the confusions of the 1970s were broadly along neoliberal, or so-called “free-market” lines, in which finance capital (in part because of the petrodollar problem) led the way’ (Harvey 2006a: x–xi). Neoliberalism, also known as monetarism, free market or global capitalism, is a version of capitalism, in which capitalists enjoy a high degree of freedom and protection...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The 1990s, the 2000s and Beyond: Moving towards the Unknown
    (pp. 198-257)

    In Chapter 3 of my book I referred to David Harvey, who quoted Richard Nixon saying in the early 1970s that ‘we are all Keynesians now’. Harvey contrasts this pronouncement with the 1990s, when ‘both Clinton and Blair could easily have reversed Nixon’s earlier statement and simply said “We are all neoliberals now”’ (Harvey 2005: 13). In the case of Blair, this was symbolised in 1995 by his winning a battle over the abandoning of Clause IV in the Labour Party constitution, which had committed the party to national ownership of key industries. These Western leaders were joined by their...

  11. CONCLUSIONS: Towards the New Cinema of Work and Idleness
    (pp. 258-266)

    In the conclusions to this book I would like to return to Marx’s concept of fetishism. The author ofCapitaluses it to illuminate the fact that every commodity placed on the market hides the labour that was put into its production. There is a mystique to a commodity. Consequently, capital is also fetishised; its origin and development and, especially, its menacing, destructive aspects are obscured. We can thus infer that in contrast to commodities and capital, labour is a simpler and more transparent concept – labour is, more or less, what it appears to be, as suggested by the title...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 267-272)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-293)
  14. Index
    (pp. 294-304)