Category Archives: melancholy

An interview with China Miéville: “A Strategy for Ruination”

“It’s too late to save, but we might repurpose. Suturing, jerry-rigging, cobbling together. Finding unexpected resources in the muck, using them in new ways. A strategy for ruination.”

For an “affirmative melancholic politics”

Advancing “the conception of an affirmative — as opposed to circuitous, nostalgic, or introspective — melancholic politics” (220), Klaus Mladek and George Edmondson (“A Politics of Melancholia,” in Strathausen, ed.: A Leftist Ontology, 2009) note that, since the early 1990s, “there has been a steady movement on the part of what might be called the poststructuralist left, represented by Derrida, Butler, and Bhabha, … toward a politics of melancholia” (210). They draw on the late Freud who believes that “the ego is constitutively melancholic, a vital defense system … said to ‘revolt’ against the extinction of objects that are unmourned and unmournable” (210). They suggest that, out of an unyielding fidelity to lost objects and values, melancholic militancy rebels against failure, refusing to allow them to sink into oblivion. Thus there may be “an affirmative, even proud dimension to the melancholic state — a dimension that recognizes doom itself as the engine of rebellion” (210).

Bhaskar Sunkara: “The Few who Won”

“Yet both the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks were wrong in 1917. The Mensheviks’ faith in Russian liberals was misplaced, as were the Bolsheviks’ hopes for world revolution and an easy leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. The Bolsheviks, having seen over ten million killed in a capitalist war, and living in an era of upheaval, can be forgiven. We can also forgive them because they were first. What is less forgivable is that a model built from errors and excesses, forged in the worst of conditions, came to dominate a left living in an unrecognizable world.”

Jonah Birch & Bhaskar Sunkara discuss “Lessons From the First Red Century”

“For those of us between the two traditions of revolutionary socialism and social democracy, we have no program, no clear alternative to either. Either we choose to fight for gains for workers within the system, while re-stabilizing the system, the path of social democracy, or we choose an insurrectionary path in an era where state legitimacy and other factors makes that seem unrealistic in advanced capitalist countries. The challenge for us today is developing that alternative, the type of strategy and politics that can actually transform the world.”

Benjamin Noys: “Afro-pessimism Reading List” (2017)

https://www.academia.edu/20191147/Afro-pessimism_Reading_List

 

Nathan Heller: “Is there any Point to Protesting?”

“Still, what has protest done for us lately? Smartphones and social media are supposed to have made organizing easier, and activists today speak more about numbers and reach than about lasting results. Is protest a productive use of our political attention? Or is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right?”

Caryl Emerson: “The Revolutionary Specters of Russian Letters”

The great Russian writers between “apocalypse and nihilism.”

Mariana Alessandri: “In Praise of Lost Causes”

In his Don Quixote, “Cervantes detailed a life in praise of futilely resisting a corrupt world. Quixote fought giants because he could not, in good conscience, not fight them. We can similarly transform ourselves into quixotic pessimists — the kind who are called dreamers, idealists or lunatics — by reading more, rejecting common sense and reinterpreting what constitutes a waste of time. If we happen to succeed by worldly standards, we will be surprised and perhaps pleasantly so; if we fail, we will have expected it. Praise be to uncertain successes and to certain failures alike.”

Sunil Iyengar reviews ‘Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris’ (2017) by Peter Brooks

“When Flaubert came to write Sentimental Education, he was looking back on at the failed revolution of 1848. … In 1870-1871, soon after Sentimental Education saw print, Paris was gripped by another revolution, leading to another radical experiment in self-government (the ill-fated Paris Commune), which yet again provoked a brutal crackdown from reactionary forces.”

Matt Broomfield: “Manifesto for a Left-Wing Meme”

“The left as self-created through the melancholic meme is not only abstracted from the present: even the lost past it clings to is held at a distance. … Though Freud dismissed it as mere rhetorical device, irony often functions as a Freudian defence mechanism. On the melancholic meme pages, it enables the ego of the weakening left to displace its self-loathing onto its past incarnations in a playful fashion, rather than consider its contemporary failures. But now is the time for attack, not defence. An ironic revolution is no revolution at all.”