Perry Anderson responds to Fredric Jameson’s ‘Politics of Utopia’ in NLR 25. Lessons for the glacial political present from Bloch and Adorno, Fourier and Lao Tse—and conditions for the renewal of utopian energies.
THE RIVER OF TIME
Utopia has always been one of Fredric Jameson’s defining concerns. No intellectual thread has been more continuous in his work, from Marxism and Form through to A Singular Modernity, whose final words read: ‘What we really need is a wholesale displacement of the thematics of modernity by the desire called Utopia. We need to combine a Poundian mission to identify Utopian tendencies with a Benjaminian geography of their sources and a gauging of their pressure at what are now multiple sea levels. Ontologies of the present demand archaeologies of the future, not forecasts of the past’. Yet though present everywhere, this is a concern that for the first time comes into full focus in the essay published in nlr 25. ‘The Politics of Utopia’ offers his most comprehensive meditation to date on a subject central to his work.
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The Missing Text
The debates of the English New Left in the summer of 1961 as backdrop to the memorable essay by Raymond Williams, printed below—and possible explanation for its first appearance in an obscure, formerly CIA-funded literary journal. Perry Anderson asks how knowledge of it would revise Edward Thompson’s critical assessment of The Long Revolution in NLR.
An Afternoon with Althusser
Notes on a conversation in the summer of 1977, when the philosopher made an impromptu visit to the NLR office. Wide-ranging discussion on Althusser’s relations with the PCF, the condition of Marxism, the Chinese and Russian revolutions compared; Trotsky, Sraffa and the problems with Gramsci’s concept of hegemony.
The Centre Can Hold
How did Emmanuel Macron become President of France virtually overnight? What are the likely consequences of his rule? The long epoch of collusive alternation between Centre-Left and Centre-Right, and its abrupt ending; the realities of Le Pen’s Front National, and the riposte of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise. Has neo-liberalism finally arrived in force in Paris, and if so what are the implications for Europe?
Passing the Baton
Leaving the White House with record ratings, why couldn’t Obama’s efforts secure it for his former Secretary of State? The legacy that helped Trump into office—and prospects for America’s newest left.
The Heirs of Gramsci
Transformations of the Prison Notebooks’ fertile problematic of hegemony by a quartet of thinkers—Hall, Laclau, Guha, Arrighi—from Jamaica, Buenos Aires, Bengal, Milan. Coercion and persuasion, ideology and economic interest, national and inter-state systems as means for thinking Thatcherism’s ascendancy, populist strategies, peasant rebellion, post-colonial rule and the geo-political logics of American power.
The House of Zion
The fate of the Palestinians and the fortunes of Israel, after fifty years of occupation, and American and European collusion with it. Realities behind the official tropes decorating a ‘two-state solution’, and hesitations of nascent debate over a single state in the territory once ruled as a mandate by Britain.
With the collisions over Ukraine, the contradictions in Russia’s relations with the West have been sharpened by sanctions and economic crisis. Perry Anderson on the spectre of Great Power status that still informs the post-multinational nation—and why, despite all the Kremlin’s attempts at integration with the US–EU, the country remains indigestible.
Retrospective on the liberated life and work of Alexander Cockburn, whose last book, A Colossal Wreck, completes a dazzling triptych. Shaping influences of family, place and political epoch on a singularly radical temperament, and the keen-edged prose in which it found expression.