Terry Eagleton on Russell Jacoby, The End of Utopia. What surer sign of accommodation to the status quo than pompous funerals of the utopian imagination? Masks and corollaries of political resignation.
Russell Jacoby has a good line in gloomy titles. Social Amnesia and Dialectic of Defeat were followed by The Last Intellectuals, which has now been joined by The End of Utopia. There is, of course, a good deal for the left to be gloomy about, despite the comrade who sanguinely announced at the Socialist Workers Party summer school last year that there had ‘never been more revolutionary opportunities’. Quite what it is the left should be glum about, however, needs closer specification. Has utopia come to an end because of apathy, as the book’s subtitle suggests, or because the left is in retreat, or because history is going downhill, or because it has slithered to a halt? These grounds are not mutually exclusive, but the relations between them need examining. Is the left in retreat, for example, because history is going downhill, or is it the other way round?
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Identifying Fredric Jameson’s literary style as one of his signal achievements, Eagleton asks whether his formal emphases also serve to stave off questions of content: morality, sexuality, subjectivity.
Samuel Beckett’s work for the French Resistance set against his dogged refusal of all ideology. The traces of Ireland’s history—hunger, deferment, deflation, indeterminacy—in his exile art.
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