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Culture Of Complaint: The Fraying Of America

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  341 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
The best-selling author of The Shock of the New, The Fatal Shore, and Barcelona here delivers a withering polemic aimed at the heart of recent American politics and culture. Culture of Complaint is a call for the reknitting of a fragmented and over-tribalized America - a deeply passionate book, filled with barbed wit and devastating takes on public life, both left and righ ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published 1994 by Warner (first published January 1st 1992)
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Dfordoom
Aug 21, 2011 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Hughes takes aim at political correctness and at our modern culture of whining. Great book. Annoy your leftist friends by buying it for them.
Huma Rashid
May 19, 2011 Huma Rashid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written in the early to mid 90s. It takes shots at liberals and the religious right and conservatives, and is actually kind of funny. The author talks about wars and crippling debt and the growing power of the religious right and the fight to defund public broadcasting, but it seems tinged with hope, like things will get better.

I was nearly sick to my stomach the whole time I read it because it's 15 years later and things are WORSE.

I have many thoughts about and excerpts from this
...more
Phil Smith
Sep 17, 2007 Phil Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding book about American culture by Australian art critic Robert Hughes. I like his gritty, in-your-face assessment of the American animal. He loves his Australian heritage, to be sure, but also has a deep love for the United States. For Hughes, Australia and the United States are kindred spirits, brothers in a silly world. Put another way, this book is about tough love - showing us how ridiculous we've become but how we still have what it takes to straighten up.
Juan
Jan 14, 2008 Juan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it twice. It's a great, great book.
Daniel Nanavati
Jul 27, 2014 Daniel Nanavati rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Hughes The Culture of Complaint

Thoughts 20 years after publication


Hughes' assumption that because we worshipped readily in the past we are always seeking to worship something – supported by a quote from Auden - is a paradigm I do not accept. Even when worshipping gods the 'mystery' in religion was a strong force and just because people want to believe in mysteries now now does not mean they worship them. The conspiracy theories we see everywhere are the banal ravings of people who have no
...more
Eric_W
Dec 09, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reviewed Robert Hughes' (author of Fatal Shore) new book, The Culture of Complaint in the April 19, 1993 issue of The New Yorker. Hughes takes aim at both the Right and the Left who are both involved with politicizing culture: "If someone agrees with us on the aims and uses of culture, we think him objective; if not, we accuse him of politicizing the debate. In fact, political agendas are everywhere and the American conservatives' ritual claim that their own cultural or s ...more
Johnny
Dec 09, 2008 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Although written during the Clinton Administration, this compilation of three very seminal essays is as relevant today as when they were first published. Hughes is a historian and art critic, but Culture of Complaint qualifies as a philosophical counterbalance to Allen Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind To be sure, there are some points where Bloom and Hughes might find agreement. Both would agree that our current culture has sold out to some inconsistent ideals of multicultural idealism, ...more
Deborah J
Mar 31, 2016 Deborah J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hughes was one of those clever people whose work it's great to read but whom I would have hesitated to meet in person - you just know he'd immediately have spotted your weaknesses and delusions and commented accordingly. Some of this made me laugh out loud, some scared me. As a non-American I can see that where America led with the cult of self-esteem, and, ultimately, the race to dumb down (at least in some circles), we are already following. I like the fact that he doesn't save his vitriol for ...more
Tim
Apr 29, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


I would LOVE to get hold of this book again, given the reading I have done on America and art since then. At the time (late 90s) I loved it, but as an artist trained in a more modernist environment, I was suspicious of postmodernism in the art world, sometimes justifiably so, but I realise now, also often out of ignorance.
David B
Robert Hughes takes aim at Americans' preoccupation with victimhood, the battleground of multiculturalism, and the mediocrity of modern art in this collection of three essays expanded from speeches that he had given. I basically agree with him, but the first two sections of this book read like the ramblings of a grouchy old man, albeit a very well-educated one. It comes alive in the final section, in which Hughes laments that Americans have come to see art as something therapeutic, that the inte ...more
Procyon Lotor
Imprescindibile aiuto contro i sensi di colpa Robert H. affronta la saga del (ugh!) politically correct in tre conferenze acute e ficcanti. Sarebbe stato pi Bastard Contrario con qualche digressione in meno un po' di ferocia in pi. (ecco il perch della stella in meno). Il Politically Correct una peste non un raffreddore per cui caro - Mr Hughes - il DDT mooolto meglio dello uno spray nasale... Con qualche piccolissimo adattamento un libro totalmente accostabile alla corrente situazione AKA " ...more
Splashconception
Okay, here it is, simple as can be: this is a book length complaint about complaining. Pure genius if it was meant to be a kind of mental mirror style joke, purely dumb if this guy is actually taking himself seriously. And also whiney and annoying (yes I am aware that I am complaining about complaining, I just happened to get it done in a sentence instead of 200 pages). I give it two stars because i am still reading it and determined to finish it now that I reviewed it, and I still believe it is ...more
Brian
Sep 04, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books of all time.
David
May 26, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
excellent - it ALL true.....
Makomai
Non sono nervoso: sono diversamente calmo!

Questo non e’ un commento (anche perche’ il libro e’ ancora in lettura).

Il linguaggio politically correct ha spesso dell’assurdo, comportando l’adozione di termini inutilmente ipocriti (“audioleso” al posto di “sordo”), ridicoli (“verticalmente svantaggiato” e tutti gli aggettivi preceduti da “diversamente”), contrari all’uso consolidato (“humankind” invece di “mankind”), cacofonici (“magistrata”), inutilmente ambigui (“operatore ecologico” al posto di “
...more
Kevin Tole
The late Robert Hughes was never a dull read and quite often an inspired critic. There are those that would say that Hughes was the conservative of the pack. For sure there was a lot more insight in the criticism coming from his pen as opposed to the pretty-pretty world of all the Graham-Dixon's. This book comes out of three lectures that Hughes gave in either 1988 or the early 90s.

Hughes berates the populist Ruight of Amerika as well as the left/liberal side which can only come up with rampant
...more
James Payne
Like mainlining 1992 - Afrocentrism, NEA controversies, Jesse Helms, complaints re: political correctness, Andres Serrano, Multiculturalism, ideological battles over canonical literature, etc.

Hughes tries to position himself as the only voice of reason in the room, and, uh, I don't know. For instance, he couldn't have been more wrong about the ability of language to change actions and attitudes. He lost the fight he wages against multiculturalism and P.C. in this book. P.C. is part and parcel o
...more
Glenn Arthur Pierce
Hughes's best habit is making ginormous points through the a complex synergism of simple words. This book raises (but doesn't answer) the question ... is it worth it to be a clear-thinking narrative genius if everyone's going to drive you crazy?
David Bonesteel
Robert Hughes takes aim at Americans' preoccupation with victimhood, the battleground of multiculturalism, and the mediocrity of modern art in this collection of three essays expanded from speeches that he had given. I basically agree with him, but the first two sections of this book read like the ramblings of a grouchy old man, albeit a very well-educated one. It comes alive in the final section, in which Hughes laments that Americans have come to see art as something therapeutic, that the inte ...more
Dorian Hawkmoon
Aug 03, 2014 Dorian Hawkmoon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Splendido.
Andrés
Apr 18, 2008 Andrés rated it liked it
The first 50-odd pages are an explosion of ranting and raving at all cultural targets within view and without. Once you get past that literary wreckage he settles down to a pungently written critique of American cultural thought. His observations are not fantastically original, his attack on all extremists is a well-trodden path, but it is at least witty and well-written. His art essay weaves a convincing interpretations of art's relationship to American culture in light of recent controversies.
Marc
This book is a brilliant, intelligent RANT, with so many quotable quotes.
I just finished this book on my flight to Freeport. Review to come ...

Evan
I've had this on my shelf for years. Its targets seem varied and no party line appears safe. I think I bought it because I somehow believed it espoused the conservative line (this was when I was more sympathetic to that brand of viewpoint). Luckily, it's not something Rush's crowd can trot out in its defense. I hope to give this book a read soon.
Etanouye
Mar 27, 2008 Etanouye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some cogent and prescient analysis with a sense of humor, especially in the first section, which analyzes race and television issues of 15 years ago but could be talking about today. There's also some dated art industry criticism towards the end, but it's fun to read too.
Jim
Mar 27, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant skewering of American politics and culture, both Left and Right.
Philip Girvan
Dec 22, 2015 Philip Girvan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive examination of PC culture's first wave. Hughes is a fun critic to read and does an excellent job skewering those who seek comfort and safety by attempting to silence ideas or artistic expression they find offensive.

John
Apr 17, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Takes aim at the distorted claims of certain multicultural groups. Things seem to have cooled off a little since this book came out 16 years ago, thank the fickle gods.
Andrew
May 05, 2007 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty insightful, in terms of seeing the hypocrisy on 'both sides of the aisle' in American politics, although he gets a little carried away with his metaphors at times...
Lorraine
Mar 27, 2009 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
highly entertaining but recommended to be read with some degree of criticality. like martin amis, hughes assumes he knows it all -- but doesn't really ;)

still, it's great fun!
Richard
Oct 01, 2014 Richard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A dated collection of lectures in which the author spends 244 pages complaining. Disclaimer: I skimmed.
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Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, AO was an Australian art critic, writer and television documentary maker who has resided in New York since 1970. He was educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview before going on to study arts and then architecture at the University of Sydney. At university, Hughes associated with the Sydney "Push" – a group of artists, writers, intellectuals and drinkers. Among the ...more
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