The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment

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9780393313123: The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment

From one of the most influential figures of the last twenty years―the author of Sexual Politics―comes this brilliant work in which Kate Millet sets out a new theory of politics for our time, a harrowing view of the modern state based on the practice of torture as a method of rule, as conscious policy.

It is, in the words of the noted Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya, "a passionate, heroic effort to fathom the nature of a phenomenon that all too often drains us emotionally and incapacitates us intellectually."

Millett analyzes the individual's monumental fear of the state through the rich literature of its expression―a mixture of literary text (Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Mathabane's Kaffir Boy, Bharadwaj's film Closet Land), the reports of witnesses, legal theory, and historical account. The literary version of their experience is the most arresting; it prevails and persuades with the greatest effect: the reality of the victim, the social and psychological climate of life under dictatorship, the moment of capture when one is "disappeared," that pivotal electronic second after which nothing is ever the same.

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From the Back Cover:

In Kate Millett's brilliant new book, her most important since the ground-breaking Sexual Politics, a work which forever changed our understanding of the interdependence of the political and the personal. Now in The Politics of Cruelty she sets out a new theory of politics for our time and offers a harrowing view of the modern state based on the practice of torture as a method of rule, as conscious policy. In assuming the power of torture over its citizens, government has made itself omnipotent, threatening the social and political progress of centuries. In many places throughout the world, the individual is faced with monumental force; fear of the state has become the condition of our time. Millett analyzes that fear through the rich literature of its expression, a mixture of literary text, the reports of witnesses, legal theory, and historical account. Included are Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece, The First Circle; Claude Lanzmann's Shoah; Mark Mathabane's Kaffir Roy; and Radha Bharadwaj's film, Closet Land. But it is the literary version of experience which prevails and persuades with the greatest effect: the reality of the victim; the social and psychological climate of life under dictatorship; the moment of arrest, capture; the moment when one falls down the rabbit hole and disappears; that pivotal electronic second, after which nothing is ever the same. And there is no going back...

About the Author:

Influential feminist writer Kate Millett (1934―2017) was the author of numerous books including Sexual Politics, The Politics of Cruelty, Flying Sita, The Basement, and The Loony Bin Trip. Millett was a founder of the Millett Center for the Arts in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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