Monday, 20 October 2008

Interesting Paragraphs

I have a habit of scanning the indexes of non-fiction books just in case beer gets a look-in. My obsession has produced another 'hit'. The book is "Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945" by Tony Judt, page 486 of the hardback edition.

"But in the Seventies, policies moved to the forefront. 'Single issue' parties and movements emerged, their constituencies shaped by a variable geometry of common concerns: often narrowly focused, occasionally whimsical. Britain's remarkably successful Campaign for Real Ale is a representative instance: founded in 1971 to reverse the trend to gaseous, homogenized 'lager' beer (and the similarly homogenized, 'modernized' pubs in which it was sold), this middle-class pressure group rested its case upon a neo-Marxist account of the take-over of artisanal beer manufacture by mass-producing monopolists who manipulated beer-drinkers for corporate profit - alienating consumers from their own taste buds by meretricious substitution.

In its rather effective mix of economic analysis, environmental concern, aesthetic discrimination and plain nostalgia, CAMRA foreshadowed many of the single-issue activist networks of years to come, as well as the coming fashion among well-heeled bourgeois-bohemians for the expensively 'authentic'. But its slightly archaic charm, not to mention the disproportion between the intensity of its activists' engagement and the tepid object of their passion, made this single-issue movement necessarily somewhat quaint.

But there was nothing whimsical or quaint about other single-issue political networks, most of them - like CAMRA - organized by and for the middle class. [...goes on to various Scandanavian single issue, tax-reduction protest parties.]"

Tony Judt is evidently a non-beer specialist - he would have known not to be so specific as to describe "the trend to gaseous, homogenized 'lager' beer" when in fact gaseous, homogonised ale was the main object of ire, with lager as a side-show of little, but growing, consequence. Nonetheless, this Pulitzer Prize runner-up does seem to supporting my recent theme about CAMRA's non-explicit Marxist perspective

The author's suggestion that CAMRA has been "remarkably successful" needs some attention. After all, cask ale's market share hasn't changed much in 35 years. CAMRA's frequent pre-emptive defence is to claim that cask ale would have died out (the Marxist big-business-always-swallows-small tenet) without them. This is difficult to prove or disprove, but its worth remembering the American beer market: from 10 to 1600 craft breweries since 1980, all without the benefit of a self-appointed campaigning organisation but with the benefit of not being encumbered by the tie system.

The author needs some serious educating on "the tepid object of their passion". Hmm.

[If you haven't read them already, I strongly urge you to get hold of


Anonymous said...

Surely there's never been any argument that Camra was a "middle class" organisation in its origin, or that many (but by no means not all) of its members today could be so catagorised. The argument is that the beer was a "working class" drink, isn't it? You seemed to be saying that it wasn't - or at least that it isn't now.

As for America's craft breweries, their development has been in part (arguably a large part) as a result of the work of Camra and similar organisations to protect and promote various traditional beer styles. It can't be proved that US craft brewing wouldn't have developed or been as modestly successful with them, but what is certain is that the major corporate brewers of America wouldn't have catered to the (still comparitively tiny) sector of the trade now served by the craft brewers.

Alistair Reece said...

It is one of the inherent paradoxies of Marxism that very few proles actually give two hoots about class warfare and the overthrow of the capitalist order, rather it was middle to upper class people aggrieved that they weren't in the ruling echelons of society and so got stroppy - Lenin being a prime example. Once in power they tend to behave exactly as the very bourgeois they claimed to hate.

The Woolpack Inn said...

Tony Judt does seem to agree with you.

After reading all the comments for and against Jeff's ideas, I think the fact remains that the impression of CAMRA that SOME people have matches Jeff's. It might be right and it might be wrong, but arguing against the fact that this is a view held by some only makes that impression worse.

Fact: Many ale drinkers are middle class.
Fact: The CAMRA impression CAN put off middle class people.

Tandleman said...

Fact - Most CAMRA members are middle class!

The Woolpack Inn said...

Also true!!