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New Left Review 43, January-February 2007


Göran Therborn offers a panoramic survey of left social theory since the fall of Communism. The vicissitudes of modernity as contested temporal narrative, and the divergent thematic paths—religion, Utopia, class, sexuality, networks, world-systems—that are emerging in the new landscape.

GÖRAN THERBORN

AFTER DIALECTICS

Radical Social Theory in a Post-Communist World

If socialism and liberalism have both been central to modern political and social thought, during the 20th century it was socialism, in a loose ecumenical sense, that was the most successful of the two in terms of intellectual attraction and public support. [1] This text grew from an initial invitation to contribute to a collection on different aspects of European social theory, focusing on the question of ‘Post-Marxism and the Left’, and was later expanded for nlr. Any survey of a field as broad as this will be liable to omissions and oversights, as well as to the political, personal and generational inclinations of its author. A shorter, more Eurocentric version of this article appeared in Gerard Delanty, ed., Handbook of European Social Theory, London 2006. Socialism was emblazoned on the banners of mass parties in Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa—in fact, virtually every major country of the globe, with the exception of Nigeria and the us. It was embraced as a rhetorical goal, at least, by a range of locally powerful parties from Arctic Social Democrats to African nationalists. Socialism and Communism exercised a powerful attraction over some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century: Einstein was a socialist, writing a founding manifesto for the American Marxist journal Monthly Review; Picasso was a Communist, who designed the logo of post-World War ii Communist-led peace movements. In spite of its conservatively defined original task and its own staunchly conservative traditions, the Swedish Academy has allotted the Nobel Prize for literature to a series of left-wing writers, from Romain Rolland to Elfriede Jelinek.

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