Posts Tagged ‘Left in the Past’

The Sunday Review: Left in the past: radicalism and the politics of nostalgia, by Alastair Bonnett

10/04/2011, 01:40:51 PM

by Anthony Painter

There is a tragic oscillation that occurs cyclically on the left between over-confidence and capitulation. It is summarised by a Christopher Lasch quote in Alastair Bonnett’s study of the complex relationship between nostalgia and radicalism:

“Their confidence in being on the winning side of history made progressive people unbearably smug and superior but they felt isolated and beleaguered in their own country since it was so much less progressive than they were”.

As Labour enters office, it is certain in its knowledge of how progressive the country is. It leaves office in despair at how reactionary it is. Having tried to buy it off with reactionary and authoritarian language and policies, it is generally also perplexed. Labour, meet reality; reality, kick Labour. Only neither perspective is true. Britain is neither predominantly progressive or reactionary. It is, however, deeply conservative, which is an entirely different proposition altogether.

Progressives look to the future with gleeful zeal. Conservatives warily eye the past, in part longing and part warning, and step into the future only tentatively. In that sense, they are more attuned to the default human condition. We are a species that is disconcerted by convulsive change. How strange then that we have built an economy and society around such change – a key part of the radical critique of where we are. And how predictable it would be if there were a social and psychological reaction to such change. As Ian Dyck writes of farm labourers in the early nineteenth century:

“They remembered a better life and they wanted it back”.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon