COMMENDABLESnA RespectablenEffortnRobert Hughes: The Shocknof the New; Alfred A. Knopf; NewnYork.nIn that kitchen of pretentiousnbanahty in the West Fifties thatnis Time magazine, one mannstands out as a bona-fide criticnamidst reviewers who only callnthemselves critics. His name isnRobert Hughes, and he is a sortnof Australian sophisticate, whichnmany people would consider ancontradiction in terms. Amongnthe newest brand of reviewers —nthat is, critical mercenaries whonsell their services to any culturalnfashion that guarantees moneynand prestige—he looks different.nTime seems to be an oasisnfor these “critical” postures innliterature, pop music, moviesnand various cultural trends, withnonly theater and the arts havingnescaped their corruptive influence,nprobably because of thenindividualistic tendencies ofncritics who serve those departments.nWhat Mr. Hughes doesnin his work is perhaps not toonremarkable by the standards thatnhave been established by philosophersnof creativity from Aristotlento Benedetto Croce, butnhe at least attempts to establishna criterion and live honorablynby its canon. He’s not very subtlenabout his golden rule fornbeauty or Tightness or wisdom,nbut at least he gropes for one;nhe does not shy away from commonnsense and he invokes hisnown taste carefully—which inspiresnconfidence.nHis book—aside from itsnmagnificent illustrations andnthe superb wealth of splendidnreproductions—gives a fairlynhonest overview of the historynof modern art. He tries, in eightnchapters, to answer many questionsnabout the artistic avantgarde—thenancient and by nownfully specious notion. He succeeds’innmany ways, althoughnhe does not formulate the twonmost pertinent questions: whyndid avant-garde, from the outset,nsell out to leftish causes and becomenthe most pathetic, dolefulnIN FOCUSnComparative FrolicsnGeorge Fredrickson: WhitenSupremacy; Oxford UniversitynPress; New York.nby Alan J. LevinenWhite Supremacy is an interesting,nif flawed, effort in comparativenhistory. It is a treatmentnof the patterns of race relationsnin the United States and SouthnAfrica. Fredrickson sees themnas linked, as two mixed-race settlementncolonies where Africansnor blacks were dominated bynProtestant Northwest Europeansnin a harsh, or at least distinctive,nway. The slave-holdingnsocieties of Catholic Ibero-nAmerica, he argues, did not, atnleast after emancipation, manifestnthe peculiar rigidity ofn”white supremacy,” a term henprefers, on rather unclearngrounds, to racism.nTime and again, however, itnis apparent that the U.S.-SouthnAfrica comparison is a slipperynand tenuous affair. Fredricksonnhimself is repeatedly reduced tonadmitting that the social situationsnin the two countries arenDr. Levine is an historian innNew York City.nand ludicrous victim of leftistsnwherever they have come tonpower? And why have all thenexertions of the avant-gardenfailed to establish any connectionnwith the masses—of whichnthe avant-gardists claimed tonbe servants and worshipers—nother than through the bastardizedncubist pattern on a Woolworthntie? Like so many of hisnpredecessors, Mr. Hughes somehownmissed an opportunity. Dnmarkedly different. Moreover,nto his credit, Fredrickson doesnnot, as has recently been fashionable,ndisregard the differencesnbetween the South and the restnof the United States, though hentends to minimize it. Attemptsnto draw parallels between thentwo countries frequently comento grief. After treating the post-nReconstruction South and thenunification of South Africanunder Boer domination, Fredricksonnadmits: “despite the apparentnsimilarities of a whitenunification at the expense ofnnonwhite access to citizenry thatnoccurred at the turn of the centurynin both the United States andnSouth Africa, it is clear in retrospectnthat the underlying institutionalnand ideological imperativesnpointed in opposite directions.”nHe notes that postemancipationnblacks in the U.S. werenlargely excluded from industry,nwhile South African blacks becamenthe backbone of industrialization.nRacial segregation in thentwo countries was quite different:n”Indeed these differencesnare of such degree as to cast doubtnon the value of a detailed comparisonnof the unequal treatmentnof southern blacks during thennnJim Crow era and the lot of Africansnunder segregation and apartheidnsince 1910.”nThe truth would seem to benthat race relations in the U.S.nand South Africa not only are,nbut always have been, fundamentallyndifferent. The fact thatnblacks have always been a minoritynin the U.S. (even thoughnthey have been a majority innsome states and smaller areas)nis, alone, a fundamental—notnjust statistical — difference.nAmerican whites do not muchnresemble South African whites;nmost of the latter are descendednfrom a very small, isolated groupnof grim Calvinists who havenlargely been separated from thenrest of Western civilization forntwo centuries. There is no ethnicnsplit among American whitesnreally comparable to that betweennAfrikaners and BritishnSouth Africans. Americannblacks are a stratum or caste descendednfrom ex-slaves, and theynare Americans, recognizablynpart of the American people.nSouth African blacks are actuallyna number of indigenous peoples,neach with its own highlyndistinct culture; they were nevernchattel slaves, and it is unlikelynthat they regard themselves asnpart of the “same people” as thenwhites. As Fredrickson himselfnadmits, it is the Colored minority,nnot the black majority, thatnresemble American blacks; evennso, there are great differencesnbetween the two groups. Whilenthe color bar in the U.S. was alwaysnvery rigid, the boundarynbetween white and Colored innSouth Africa has usually beennvague and permeable. (On thenwhole, the Coloreds seem tonhave been better treated thannAmerican blacks, until the apartheidnera.)nDespite Fredrickson’s arguments,ncomparisons betweennthe U.S. and Latin Americanseem to be far more valid. Incidentally,nif one can momentarilynignore obsessions with colorn•HMHHM41nJttly/Attgttst 1981n