Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory by Enzo Traverso

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 historical past as a chain of losses. For the political left, the reason misplaced used to be communism, and this trauma made up our minds how leftists wrote the subsequent bankruptcy of their political fight and the way they've got thought of their previous seeing that. in the course of the 20th century, argues Left-Wing Melancholia, from classical Marxism to psychoanalysis to the appearance of serious thought, a tradition of defeat and its emotional overlay of depression have characterised the leftist figuring out of the political in heritage and in theoretical critique.

Drawing on an unlimited and numerous archive in conception, testimony, and picture 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 an apprehension of surrendering in disarray and resignation, in mourning the human expenses of the prior, and in a feeling of failure for no longer understanding utopian aspirations. but hidden inside this melancholic culture are the assets for a renewed problem to triumphing regimes of historicity, a fondness that has the ability to reignite the dialectic of innovative thought.

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Extra resources for Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory

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Thus, the ambition of this book is to rethink the history of socialism and Marxism through the prism of melancholy. In exploring such a past both familiar and “unknown” (insofar as it was repressed), I will try to connect intellectual debates with cultural forms. The traces of left-wing melancholia can be recognized and captured much easier in the multiple expressions of socialist imagination than in doctrinal productions and theoretical controversies; furthermore, the latter reveal new meanings when they are reconsidered through the collective imagination that accompanied them.

39 The Holocaust allows for the sacralization of the foundational values of liberal democracies—pluralism, tolerance, and Rights of Man—whose defense takes the form of a secular liturgy of remembering. It would be wrong to confuse collective memory and the civil religion of the Judeocide: the first is the presence of the past in today’s world; the second is a politics of representation, education, and commemoration. Rooted into the formation of a transnational historical consciousness, the civil religion of the Holocaust is the product of state pedagogic efforts.

It perceives the tragedies and the lost battles of the past as a burden and a debt, which are also a promise of redemption. The seven chapters that compose this book excavate this melancholy constellation from different perspectives: by sketching the features of a left-wing culture of defeat (chapter 1), by depicting a Marxist conception of memory (chapter 2), by extracting a vision of mourning from paintings and movies (chapter 3), and by investigating the tension between ecstasy and sorrow that shapes the history of revolutionary Bohemia (chapter 4).

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