By Enzo Traverso
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the top of the chilly warfare but in addition the increase of a melancholic imaginative and prescient of background as a sequence of losses. For the political left, the reason misplaced used to be communism, and this trauma decided how leftists wrote the subsequent bankruptcy of their political fight and the way they've got considered their previous when you consider that. in the course of the 20th century, argues Left-Wing Melancholia, from classical Marxism to psychoanalysis to the appearance of serious idea, a tradition of defeat and its emotional overlay of depression have characterised the leftist realizing of the political in heritage and in theoretical critique.
Drawing on an enormous and various archive in thought, testimony, and photograph and on such thinkers as Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, and others, the highbrow historian Enzo Traverso explores the various nature of left depression because it has manifested in a sense of guilt for no longer sufficiently hard authority, in a terror of surrendering in disarray and resignation, in mourning the human bills of the previous, and in a feeling of failure for no longer knowing utopian aspirations. but hidden inside this melancholic culture are the assets for a renewed problem to winning regimes of historicity, a fondness that has the ability to reignite the dialectic of progressive thought.
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Additional info for Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory
Gustave Courbet, The Trout (1873). 1. Portbou in the 1930s. 2. Memorial Passatges, by Dani Karavan (1994). 3. Portbou, cemetery (2014). 4. Portbou, commemorative plaque. 5. Portbou, Spanish Republican exiles, end of January 1939. 6. Daniel Bensaïd, early 1970s. 7. Daniel Bensaïd, 1989. Preface The aim of this book is to investigate the melancholic dimension of left-wing culture in the past century. The left I will deal with is not defined in merely topological terms (the parties on the left of the political and institutional space), according to the conventional viewpoint of political science, but rather in ontological terms: as movements that struggled to change the world by putting the principle of equality at the center of their agenda.
Comprising hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of members, and deeply rooted in civil societies, they had been a major vector of the formation and transmission of a collective political memory. The new “catchall” parties that replaced them are electoral machines without strong political identities. Socially decomposed, class memory vanished in a context where laboring men and women had lost any public visibility; it became a kind of “Marrano” memory, that is, a hidden memory (exactly as Holocaust memory was just after the war) and the European left lost both its social bases and its culture.
Admirably self-organized, these revolutions showed an astonishing lack of leadership and appeared strategically disoriented, but their limits did not lie in their leaders or in their social forces: they are the limits of our epoch. Such uprisings and mass movements are burdened with the defeats of the revolutions of the twentieth century, which are an overwhelming heaviness paralyzing the utopic imagination. This historical change inevitably affected feminism. Revolutionary feminism had deeply put into question many assumptions of classical socialism—notably its implicit identification of universalism with male vision and agency—but it shared an idea of emancipation projected into the future.
Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory by Enzo Traverso