John Berger

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John Berger

John Peter Berger (born November 5, 1926) is an art critic, novelist, painter and author. The best-known among his many works include the novel G., winner of the 1972 Booker Prize, and the introductory essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a significant BBC series of the same name, and often used as a college text.


Ways of Seeing (1972)[edit]

Ways of Seeing BBC and Penguin Books (1972)

  • According to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome, the social presence of a woman is different in kind from that of a man...A man's presence suggests what he is capable of doing to you or for you... By contrast, a woman's presence expresses her own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be done to her. (p. 45-46)
  • Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.
  • Publicity is usually explained and justified as a competitive medium which ultimately benefits the public (the consumer) and the most efficient manufacturers - and thus the national economy. It is closely related to certain ideas about freedom: freedom of choice for the purchaser: freedom of enterprise for the manufacturer. The great hoardings and the publicity neons of the cities of capitalism are the immediate visible sign of "The Free World." For many in Eastern Europe such images in the West sum up what they in the East lack. Publicity, it is thought, offers a free choice.
    • p. 130
  • Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion.
    • p. 148
  • The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

About Looking (1980)[edit]

Electronic edition: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015
  • Animals are born, are sentient and are mortal. In these things they resemble man. In their superficial anatomy — less in their deep anatomy — in their habits, in their time, in their physical capacities, they differ from man. They are both like and unlike.
    • Chapter "Why Look at Animals?"
  • A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements in that sentence are connected by an and and not by a but.
    • Chapter "Why Look at Animals?"
  • In the first stages of the industrial revolution, animals were used as machines. As also were children. Later, in the so-called post-industrial societies, they are treated as raw material. Animals required for food are processed like manufactured commodities. … This reduction of the animal … is part of the same process as that by which men have been reduced to isolated productive and consuming units. Indeed, during this period an approach to animals often prefigured an approach to man. The mechanical view of the animal’s work capacity was later applied to that of workers. F. W. Taylor who developed the “Taylorism” of timemotion studies and “scientific” management of industry proposed that work must be “so stupid” and so phlegmatic that he (the worker) “more nearly resembles in his mental makeup the ox than any other type.” Nearly all modern techniques of social conditioning were first established with animal experiments. As were also the methods of so-called intelligence testing. Today behaviourists like Skinner imprison the very concept of man within the limits of what they conclude from their artificial tests with animals.
    • Chapter "Why Look at Animals?"
  • Nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal’s gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond. They scan mechanically. … That look between animal and man, which may have played a crucial role in the development of human society, and with which, in any case, all men had always lived until less than a century ago, has been extinguished. Looking at each animal, the unaccompanied zoo visitor is alone.
    • Chapter "Why Look at Animals?"

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