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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

BEDROCK AND CHANGE Bernice Martin, A Sociology of Contemporary Cultural Change (Blackwell) £12.50

'In the last few decades the Western world has experienced a transformation in the assumptions and habitual practices which form the cultural bedrock of the daily lives of ordinary people.' With these words Bernice Martin begins her wide-ranging analysis of contemporary cultural change. She focusses above all on the British, more particularly the English experience but her observations and conclusions are relevant to the understanding of other European and North American societies. It is never easy to separate the essential from the merely curious in the study of culture. When the culture is one's own and the time the present the task is doubly hard. Bernice Martin succeeds because she takes the trouble to go beyond a mere impressionism. The present she describes is no blur. She documents her generalizations with care and is not afraid to judge present and past by criteria which she believes to have more than temporary significance. Her recurrent appeal to Thomas Mann and the later Auden illustrates her subscription to the view that human culture is always a culture of limitations and frontiers. As Auden says: 'Without these prohibitive frontiers we should never know who we were or what we wanted. It is thanks to them that we know with whom to associate, make love, exchange recipes and jokes, go mountain climbing or sit side by side fishing from piers. It is thanks to them, too, that we know against whom to rebel. We can shock our parents by visiting the dives below ...

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