Journal Article

Militant cynicism : rethinking Private eye in postwar Britain, c.1960–1980


This article seeks to rethink the nature and significance of the fortnightly magazine Private Eye during its first two decades. Existing accounts have interpreted it almost exclusively through the lens of the ‘satire boom’ (1961–3), and suggest that, in the final analysis, it neither desired nor advanced any substantial critique of the political status quo. Besides neglecting its investigative facets, among other elements, these readings make the mistake of seeking to frame the significance of the magazine in conventional ideological terms. The article puts these neglected elements back into the picture and argues that the magazine is best understood as enacting a militant form of the kind of cynicism—at once outrageous and morally outraged—analysed by Petr Sloterdijk and Michel Foucault, and other scholars in their wake. This provides a much more satisfying account of the many facets of Private Eye as these evolved during the 1960s and 1970s, including its affinities with various currents in postwar journalism and counter-cultural expression. Above all, it allows us to recast the politics of Private Eye as a form of moral protest, which was expressed in the assumption an intrinsically antagonistic relation toward ‘politics’ and authority per se.

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Crook, Tom

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Year of publication: [not yet published]
Date of RADAR deposit: 2024-01-31

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


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