Britten – Beethoven – Stravinsky – Shostakovich

by David Wemyss (October 2011)

At a dinner party recently, it was suggested to me that classical music was supposedly elitist but largely populated by composers on the left. The consequent conversation was edifying, and I thought I would share its main themes with readers of the New English Review. For stylistic reasons, I have resisted the temptation to present this article as a semi-fictionalised dialogue and have opted instead for a fairly conventional essay form, concentrating on the four composers named above. They were the ones we kept coming back to as the evening progressed. In vino veritas!


In The Guardian of 1 July 2006, the writer Lucasta Miller tells us about an exercise book in the archive of the Britten-Pears Library at the Red House in Aldeburgh. Inside, the owner has repeated his name in different formats – Edward Benjamin Britten, B Britten, and so on – before adding not only his own address but also that of his parents – 21 Kirkley Cliff Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, Europe, The Western Hemisphere, The World, The Universe.

But then she reveals that “this apparently simple relic of childhood offers a conundrum: the notebook itself, of American origin, could not have been available to Britten as a prep-school boy. Bizarrely, it turns out that the author of these Molesworthian scribblings was at least 25 at the time of writing, and already feted as the leading composer of his generation.”

As Nicholas Spice put it in his review of Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Britten (London Review of Books, 11 February 1993) the domestic arrangements in Aldeburgh replicated those of childhood. The daily regime was regular and orderly. Britten worked and walked and played while the housekeeper kept house. Meals consisted of nursery food – mince, herrings, rice pudding, apple pie, treacle tart or spotted dog. Relaxation came in the form of jigsaws, or games of Happy Families or draughts, games which Britten insisted were played properly and which he had to win. In everything he did, winning was important, whether it be at tennis or in a dispute about the staging of an opera. Criticism was intolerable. He was so much in need of not being argued with that he began to avoid possible disagreements at all costs.

In Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on his Life and Work – published in association with the Britten-Pears Foundation in 2009 – one of the contributors (Brian McMahon) speculates that Britten’s aggressive pacifism can be attributed to this pathological aversion to confrontation. In other words he was spoilt, little more than a temperamental child. He was too timid to speak to people about tricky subjects and left behind him a string of “corpses” – people whom it was easier to stop speaking to than speak to like an adult. Coming out of an argument as the loser would have crushed him; better to avoid it, even at the cost of another corpse. After all, it was never his fault.

This is the kind of spoilt child that turns into the worst kind of conscientious objector (and I should say that I have enormous respect for the best kind). In 1939 Britten headed for America as war loomed. Three years later he was back. I feel the fascists’ attitude to life can only be overcome by passive resistance, he told the Tribunal for the Registration of Conscientious Objectors in 1942.

Brian McMahon speculates that the composer returned to the UK not for the reasons of nuanced homesickness usually adduced (finding an article by E M Forster in The Listener about the 18th-century East Anglian poet George Crabbe), but because US entry into the war looked as if it might lead to his conscription there. In other words, being a conscientious objector in Britain – so tiresome previously – probably looked preferable to trying to explain himself in America.

Ever since my first forays into Britten’s voluminous letters and diaries (which began appearing more than twenty years ago) I have always wondered if this might be the truth of the matter.

Once the war was over, and given his aversion to losing arguments, you might have thought that Britten would want to keep his head down about anything that might invite the rejoinder that for him it had never started. But no. Amazingly, in July 1945 – just after VE Day – he had the nerve to call a press conference to criticise Winston Churchill publicly for having had a good meal in Potsdam while the enemy population was starving. Against the background of a fatuous symbolic foodless lunch, he expressed himself as follows:

“Mr Churchill’s high living at Potsdam is an offence that stinks to high heaven. It is a political indecency – a moral crime . . .  that it is in this wrecked, beaten, hungry country that the United Nations have met. And the first news we get is that they are gorging themselves on turkeys, hams, fresh eggs, juicy steaks, melons, strawberries, wines and whiskeys. All around are the stricken enemy people, hungry and facing greater hunger; not far away are the people of France, Belgium, Holland and Norway. They have been hungry for years and are still hungry.”

You have to say that these are the words of a moral idiot. But it doesn’t show. People used to say that say Britten’s music was terribly clever, and too remarkable to resist, but that, in the end, the crooked timber of his personality defined it. To me, this was always nonsense. I don’t think the crooked timber of a composer’s personality can limit the stature of his music, although it can obviously have something to do with the extra-musical elements of an opera, or get in the way of enjoying something like the War Requiem (which is a deeply-involving pacifist work by an objectionable pacifist, and so the latter aspect grates a bit – but not as a musical aggravation).

And if you look at Britten’s operas, you see his obsession with young boys leaping out at you all over the place, but, again, these are not purely musical works, and, to the extent that they tell stories, their narratives are of course amenable to sensible commentary (if you’re lucky) or postmodern foolishness (if you’re not). But the left-wing Britten does not show up in the pure music. How could that even be?

However, the really interesting thing here is that it wasn’t so very long ago that academics would have scoffed at the very suggestion of extra-musical elements hidden in purely musical content. I remember the derision suffered by Deryck Cooke after the publication (and popularity) of his book The Language of Music. Yet there were always exceptions that proved the rule.  

Wagner was commonly suspected of being just unhealthy, albeit that a lot of that was because of the actual characters in his music dramas, the sentiments he put into their mouths, his antisemitic writings about music and politics – and of course the fact that Hitler was so passionate about him. Nevertheless, Neville Cardus did say that, as with an egg that had gone off, you could just smell something wrong with Wagner’s music, in itself.  

Britten – an altogether lesser figure, obviously – suffered from a similar willingness on the part of critics to impute some sort of moral failing to his music, although it’s difficult to separate this from the genuine discomfort people felt about someone we would now call a paedophile writing so many major operatic roles for young boys – in operas about the corruption of youth, child abuse, and the exquisite yearning of impossible desires.

He probably never crossed a line he couldn’t retreat back over – although there may have been a close-run thing on one occasion – but you have to give him credit for resisting a dark temptation, which is something we would ordinarily call a moral accomplishment. Nevertheless he circled around children obsessively. The operatic parts were written, and the boys were cast in them. They seem to have found the whole experience benign, although they too could become “corpses” – when their voices broke! It was all a bit grisly, but the point is that it tempted people to suggest that the music was infected, even though they wouldn’t ordinarily have thought such a thing.

Nowadays, though, “hermeneutical suspicion” is all the rage. The “new musicology” is predicated on the assumption that political and philosophical and psychological elements are not just likely to be hidden inside the fabric of supposedly “pure” music but are bound to be. In other words, war has been declared on the old intuition that music is a transcendent or abstract art form. 


In 1788, when Beethoven was eighteen, the Bastille fell. Two years later he wrote a cantata in memory of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II – a significant liberaliser. In 1804, the Third Symphony – briefly dedicated to Napoleon – featured a slow movement evoking patriotic ceremonies from the French Revolution. In 1805/1806 came Fidelio – an opera of political resistance and dissidence. And of course in the Ninth Symphony in 1824, the last movement was a setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy – an ode to universal brotherhood. It’s no surprise that, in the twentieth century, the composer was routinely recruited for the left.

But what was his political outlook during the period of the final sonatas and quartets? The orthodox view has always been that Beethoven was steeped in revolutionary politics and egalitarian ideas when he was younger but that in his last years he accomplished an inner emigration that was mystical and private. Samuel Beckett described the late quartets as “dire stroms of silence, in which has been engulfed the hysteria that he used to let speak up, pipe up, for itself”. It was a memorable turn of phrase. However, although these works clearly represented the turning-inward of an old man, few listeners imagined they were hearing any kind of conflict with his younger ideals.

This was brought into question in 2004 by the musicologist Stephen Rumph in Beethoven after Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works, but the book’s findings – that the late works showed affinity with a German Romantic exaltation of state and society as an organic totality, and affirmed conservative ideals – made no impression on the composer’s popular image. The traditional assumptions remained intact.

No wonder. The book is a shocking example of the “new musicology” and the disgrace of the humanities today. Typically, a lot is predicated on the idea that Beethoven has to be understood ironically. In one chapter (on the Ninth Symphony) we are told he is an authoritarian composer, manipulating tunes mechanically through counterpoint, or exposing their weaknesses through parody (as in the Diabelli waltz). This entails a category of authorial voice (or presence) in the late works, a category standing somewhere outside the works. Authority eventually “dictates” its own merger with collective understanding (and subservience). The voices of the Ode to Joy do not vindicate the free individual of Enlightenment idealism but “crawl backwards into the womb of a pre-individualistic feudal Christendom”.

Since it seems unlikely that Beethoven would recognise himself in this Alice-in-Wonderland nonsense, let me try to say something a bit simpler.

Even when Beethoven was still a young man, he was capable of a pretty haughty tone when it came to his musical gifts – which he clearly regarded as much greater than those of anyone else. Indeed, in 1798 he wrote that he was uninterested in ethical systems. Power is the morality of men who stand out from the rest, and it is also mine, he said.

Although it is beyond doubt that he entertained a range of socially progressive views, he seems to have had an aristocratic streak too. Like many of us, he was a man of distinct but limited goodwill. He was in tune with the idea of a wider meritocracy – a meritocracy to be informed by the experiential intensity of great creative figures – but the revolution he really cared about was himself.       

I hope that these two paragraphs show how the fancy of a less leftish Beethoven can be perfectly straightforward and uncontrived, and that this will compensate for a disastrously bad book which ought to have been of interest to conservatives but turns out to be a fantasy world of jargon-ridden imputations more likely to disappoint socialists – except that no ordinary person will ever read it. But the peculiarity of the situation serves as a reminder that, when Alice-in-Wonderland language runs out of control, the relativistic momentum may not always be towards the leftward appropriation of an unlikely historical figure.

Admittedly, the humanities have been wrecked by essentially left-wing pseudo-academics who see hundreds of years of literature and music as nothing but an inchoate struggle towards postmodern sociology, but, now that this has happened, all bets are off. Subjects like literary criticism and musicology amount to an intramural game, and the import of the game is certainly not conservative, but its ludic openness (as its keenest players would no doubt put it) should not be underestimated.

Nor should we forgive those who play it at our expense. Here in Britain it is part of a bloated self-perpetuating public sector, and, for the sake of unmediated literature and music, it would be wonderful if it could be allowed to wither. Most academic activity in the humanities today is not just worthless but damaging. You don’t need “experts” to guide you in how to read Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, or in how to listen to Schubert – although you might welcome a little bit of guidance from a historian, or an old-fashioned musicologist.  


Let’s look now at Stravinsky, a man with a compelling sense of the sacred, an unsurpassable refinement, one of the ten greatest composers in the history of western music, and an enormous presence in the twentieth century. Yet he was also expedient and opportunistic when it came to financial and political considerations, even cynical. He was a human being, a genius, an artist, a husband and lover and father and friend, but he didn’t really “do” social conscience and humanitarian concern.

In 1930 he says in an interview: ''I don't believe that anyone venerates Mussolini more than I do. To me he is the one man who counts nowadays in the whole world . . . He is the savior of Italy and – let us hope – of Europe.''

And, shortly after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, we find Stravinsky chiding his German publisher: ''I am surprised to have received no proposals from Germany next season, since my negative attitude toward communism and Judaism – not to put it in stronger terms – is a matter of common knowledge.''

But Stravinsky was no militarist or fascist. It was just that, if an authoritarian regime was going to be friendly to his interests, he had no more of a problem with the authoritarian bit than he would have had with getting royalties on his compositions.

When he heard that America might be dragged into the war, he exclaimed: “But where will I go?” You might not like it, but at least he had a bit of style. It’s preferable to Britten, who probably had much the same impulse but dressed it up in outrageous sanctimony and colossal self-deceit. What is it worth to have none of that?

A sound human understanding doesn’t depend on being politically literate. Look at Oskar Schindler. He was a lot more opportunistic and expedient than Stravinsky ever was, yet he went on to help all those Jews while a people steeped in Kant and Hegel just stood by. For all their ethical literacy, they were silent. But of course premeditated ethical imperatives can always be interpreted to mean what you need them to mean.

Anyway, by 1944, Stravinsky – now settled in America – was happily enthusing about Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had become a new-deal democrat. Two years later he wrote the Concerto in D for string orchestra. Listen to the critic Greg Sandow in the New York Times (30 April 2006) on the slow movement of this piece:

{It} opens with a simple melody, which any normal dull composer would have given to the violins. Stravinsky adds the cellos – and then switches the two instruments on each successive note, continuing this dizzy do-si-do until the first part of the melody is finished.

This is crazy. It's also elegant. It also might be mannered. But in the end, it's just delirious, the mark of a man who couldn't write the way dull composers do, who kept rearranging all the details of his music until each moment was unique. As Stephen Walsh puts it in the second and concluding volume of his huge biography, Stravinsky was a man with an “inability to perform mechanical tasks . . . “

It seems to me that his life was a bit like this. He could charm the birds out of the trees. Frank Sinatra once spotted him in a restaurant and asked for his autograph. He had a taste for too much Scotch. He stowed his earnings in an illegal Swiss account and complained about American taxation.  

None of this was “in” his music, of course, except that it often has a certain carefree delirium that seems to me to be apposite to its composer’s insouciance. Such is my fancy, anyway, although I have no intention of producing an academic paper on it because that would be plain stupid.

But Professor Richard Taruskin at the University of California, Berkeley, takes the insouciance of Stravinsky’s life more seriously, and – predictably – he finds it showing up in the music itself. He even suggests that, long after the famous protests at the premiere of The Rite of Spring, we should still be “against” that work – at least in our hearts – because the music is about the annihilation of the subject and the denial of psychology. Rarely has an anti-humanist message been so irresistibly communicated.

Of course this is rubbish. Taruskin’s closely-argued intelligibility just floats free, and has no objective accountability or philosophical necessariness outside itself. But the original impulse is understandable enough. The power of music is so overwhelming that it is difficult to abide by Stravinsky’s own dictum that it “expresses nothing but itself, and does that very eloquently.” But the deluge of inflated fantasy in the new musicology damages the transcendent or irreducible experience of great music very badly – which is exactly what it is intended to do.

Taruskin admits as much when he says that any claim he ever made about music was always just one claim among many possible claims, and that he never presented any claim dogmatically. “Making a strong, vigorous, even vehement argument, and having better evidence and better rhetorical skills than your opponent . . . {is] just being successful,” he gloats.

So, in this way, he pours scorn on the idea that music is irreducible – which is just about as political a project as I can imagine. Can he even hear music in an unmediated way any more?

Probably not. He would say there simply isn’t any unmediated way to hear it, but, in truth, the idea that we are bound to hear it differently in different eras is an enormous category error – although no doubt an ideologue like Taruskin has made himself into someone who does indeed hear social construction before anything else. That doesn’t mean the social construction is actually there – it just means that ideas of social construction are definitely intelligible, and that some people are very clever at manipulating the intellectually challenging complexities that indubitably flow from the original intelligibility!

If you think I’m exaggerating, have a look at the work of Professor Susan McClary at the University of California in Los Angeles, whose scholarship has led her to identify a homosexual style in the modulations and harmony of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, the “throttling, murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release” in the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, and sexism, misogyny and imperialism built into the very structure of sonata form!


Now we turn to the question of Shostakovich, and the controversy over the book Testimony – a set of memoirs supposedly dictated just before his death in 1975 to the journalist Solomon Volkov. 

Previously, music-lovers in the west had taken Shostakovich to be a major figure but a Soviet party hack. In 1973, he had even signed a petition denouncing the dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov.

Now everything changed. Suddenly Shostakovich was an ironist, a secret dissident. But what exactly is a secret dissident? After Testimony, while people were busily romanticizing the composer and finding codes and sardonic messages in his music, some musicologists were becoming acutely aware that, if there was a secret here, it sounded more like despair than dissidence.

In 2000, Oxford University Press published Laurel Fay’s biography of Shostakovich. It remains the most authoritative account of the composer’s life in the English language so far, and, while a little dry, has many merits. But it was attacked ferociously by a pro-Volkov lobby. The academic battle that followed became known as the “Shostakovich wars”.

Volkov had claimed that Testimony was based on interviews with the dying Shostakovich, and that the composer had signed off every chapter. Laurel Fay discovered that large passages of the book were drawn from previously published articles by the composer.

She suspected that he had signed only the pages containing the older materials, and by 2002 she produced conclusive evidence that Volkov had repaginated the manuscript to make it appear as if the composer had approved pages that he had presumably never read. Her findings were strongly supported by – Richard Taruskin!

But the reaction from Volkov’s defenders – in particular, Allan Ho, Dmitri Feofanov, the late Ian MacDonald and the conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy – was persuasive. Fay and Taruskin seemed to win the big arguments but they still lost the war. Shostakovich the secret dissident became an article of faith.

I have even known performances of Shostakovich to be preceded by actors playing the composer and Stalin in little biographical vignettes. Programme notes in Europe and America assume the Volkov position. Books and films abound. The feeling now is that Volkov is a problematic figure but that “his” Shostakovich rings true anyway.

Yet someone looking dispassionately at the evidence would be bound to doubt that Shostakovich was a dissident in any meaningful sense of the word. In 1968, Alexander Solzhenitsyn considered inviting him to sign a protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He decided against it on the grounds that the composer would “thrash about like a wounded thing” and “clasp himself with tightly folded arms so that his fingers could not hold a pen”.

But we have to be careful here. Richard Taruskin is quite a sinister figure – a lot of these people are – and he is particularly fond of peddling the story that Solzhenitsyn despised Shostakovich:

When, in 1973, Shostakovich was approached with the demand that he sign a circular letter denouncing Sakharov, he again gave in with disastrous consequences for his reputation among his peers in the Soviet intelligentsia, including Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who despised him for it.

But Vladimir Ashkenazy asked Solzhenitsyn personally about Taruskin’s claim. Solzhenitsyn was indignant, and provided the following statement for publication:

I never despised Shostakovich – on the contrary, I understand that he had to make compromises with the Soviet authorities in order to save his art. I admire many of his symphonies, in particular Nos. 5, 7, 8, and 9.

So you see the kind of personalities we’re dealing with here. Under these circumstances, a leap of faith is perhaps inevitable, and that’s why a lot of people think there’s something fishy about Volkov but something worse about Taruskin. One of the few genuinely likeable characters in all of this is Ashkenazy, and a lot of people go with him on a personal level.

And, in the end, haven’t we been bewitched by the word dissident, and the incongruity of the idea of a secret dissident? Isn’t it more to the point to try to imagine what it was like for Shostakovich – a composer – to know that composing (or discussing) music could get you imprisoned or killed in the Soviet Union?

The thing that stands out – but is never left to just be what it is – is that, although the composer had no stomach for a fight compared with the likes of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov were exceptions. In fact, placed in Shostakovich’s position, most of us would have lived out the same tormented charade that he lived out, and it’s a relief to just admit it. He can even seem like a redemptive figure, covering up our sins in an almost Christ-like way.

Strangely, though, Volkov’s supporters can never settle for this moderate but compellingly human picture. Instead, they have to turn the music itself into a courageous act of espionage. Why?

Here we go again. The music itself is going to be the main exhibit, the thing that will decide if the composer is to be found innocent or guilty. And, in the case of Shostakovich, it has been suggested that the Volkov-inspired revisionists were motivated by a conservative political agenda, designed to create a Shostakovich of whom it might be assumed that his Soviet nightmare had led him to hate collectivism in any form – even respectable democratic versions.

On this analysis, they were creating not just a dissident Shostakovich but a conservative one. For more on this, it’s worth looking at the (thankfully straightforward) thesis by G C Ginther “Revisionism in the Music of Dmitry Shostakovich: The Shostakovich Wars” (University of Canterbury, 2008).

And – inversely – did Fay and Taruskin need to think of Shostakovich as a socialist at heart – and therefore not someone who might have come to hate the very idea of collectivism? Terry Teachout, the music critic of Commentary magazine, even wrote that “no doubt some older left-leaning academics find it inconceivable that Shostakovich could have been anything other than a supporter of a regime with which they themselves sympathized.”

I suspect this is pretty well right. Taruskin is strongly leftward and relativistic in tone. I haven’t seen any indication that he would romanticize the Soviet Union – he said at a conference in Glasgow a few years ago that “anti-communism is one pissing contest I believe I could win” – but (as a Jew) he also threatened to take his trousers down in front of the delegates in Glasgow to refute charges of antisemitism.  

This bumptious theatricality wears thin very quickly, and his aggressive criticisms of Solomon Volkov leave the well-rounded reader with a feeling that Volkov deserves a bit of revisionism in his own favour – which he has now had, from Shostakovich’s son and many others. But I think the Volkov camp should consider whether they really want to go on buying into the new musicology mentality of looking for the “real Shostakovich” in hidden codes and irony. What’s wrong with the obviously compelling (but indeterminate) atmosphere of the music – and its irreducible musical stature.

Incidentally – and curiously – there was a controversial late confidante in Stravinsky’s life too. Not so very late, in fact. It was in 1948 that he first met the young conducting student Robert Craft, who went on to become a lifelong friend and mentor. His relationship with Stravinsky and his second wife was very close, and perhaps unsettling, and he was detested by the children of the first marriage. He also published collections of correspondence and reminiscences that are now known to be unreliable. But some of Stravinsky’s late works owe their existence to Craft’s influence, and his role as amanuensis.

As with the Volkov affair, the internet offers much on the controversy. Ultimately, I have to recommend Stephen Walsh’s two-volume biography, which is recent and extremely well-written. Craft disliked it (he is still alive) and was particularly aggrieved that everyone else loved it. But he overplayed the card of “I was actually there” to the extent of protesting too much. The feeling grew that a few flaws were being used to smear a good book – a book which had of course found fault with Craft in many ways.

Ultimately, the question is: does he get to have a trump card in all circumstances because “he was there”? If so, a subsequent biographer can never legitimately say “yes, he was there, but his presence was not always wholesome.” And that can’t be right. There is doubt about Craft’s influence, and many Stravinsky-lovers have scented something imperiously unattractive about his personality. But – equally – there is something clearly wrong about maligning Craft on the analogy of a son bullying an elderly father. None of these people were angels.


Did we reach any conclusion at the end of our dinner party? Well, the striking thing was that, in line with modern fads, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Shostakovich had recently had their music ransacked for clues to its social construction or psychological origins, whereas Britten seemed to have suffered this much earlier – at a time when those fads had not existed, and would have been seen as the Emperor’s New Clothes if anyone had suggested them. But distaste for Britten’s personality was a powerful motivating force, and it seems to have been strong enough to impel people to say that although music was generally agreed to be a pure art form, immitigable crooked timber in a composer’s personality could show through in it.

Not the same thing at all, then.

Otherwise, Beethoven and Shostakovich were “outed” as conservatives, and perhaps both of them did end up on the right – in very different ways. But I don’t think a single note of music points to that. I think it’s a purely biographical speculation, albeit a convincing one and an attractive one. The implication in Beethoven’s case was no doubt supposed to be that it was a bit disappointing to see him coloured by a prototype Nazism of the kind usually associated with Wagner. In the case of Shostakovich, on the other hand, the implication was that only a rightward trajectory really could really break free of the evil of communism.

But then a different group of musicologists disliked where relativism was leading on this occasion, and tried to get Shostakovich out of the clutches of conservatives by sacrificing his reputation altogether. All in all, it’s amazing what can emerge from an essentially left-wing deconstruction of “traditional values.”

Stravinsky was never remotely on the left, so his fate was to be turned into a kind of musical version of Heidegger. Richard Taruskin told us we should be “against” The Rite of Spring because the music contained an anti-humanist message about “the annihilation of the subject and the denial of psychology”. Stalin would have approved.

It seems that this moral and intellectual dishonesty knows no bounds, and that we are living through the death throes of a culture. But, although shades of the prison house have fallen across western civilization, the sunlight is still there. We should be careful we don’t shut out more of the sun by means of our own vexation.

Wittgenstein remarked that music had come to a full stop with Brahms, and that even with Brahms he could begin to hear the machinery. But it didn’t end with Brahms. Stravinsky and Shostakovich and Britten would have been difficult for Wittgenstein to get used to, just as Mahler was, but I think he would have managed it. The machinery he thought he heard in Brahms was not the machinery he needed to be worried about, although, in his inimitable way, he sensed that machinery too.

If I’m right that the social construction of great music is a triviality, but that ideas of social construction are definitely intelligible, and that some people are very clever at manipulating the complexities that flow from that intelligibility, doesn’t this amount to a bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language, in the classical Wittgensteinian sense?


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