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Archive for December 25th, 2009

judt on social democracy

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Tony Judt’s “What Is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy,” a talk given at NYU and printed in the NYRB, is worth taking a look at for the clarity of its diagnosis and the ultimate argument, which I take to come in these late paragraphs:

If social democracy has a future, it will be as a social democracy of fear. Rather than seeking to restore a language of optimistic progress, we should begin by reacquainting ourselves with the recent past. The first task of radical dissenters today is to remind their audience of the achievements of the twentieth century, along with the likely consequences of our heedless rush to dismantle them.

The left, to be quite blunt about it, has something to conserve. It is the right that has inherited the ambitious modernist urge to destroy and innovate in the name of a universal project. Social democrats, characteristically modest in style and ambition, need to speak more assertively of past gains. The rise of the social service state, the century-long construction of a public sector whose goods and services illustrate and promote our collective identity and common purposes, the institution of welfare as a matter of right and its provision as a social duty: these were no mean accomplishments.

We all, I think, understand what Judt’s getting at with this argument in favour of conservative, “anti-modernist” social democracy, given the tenor of the neo-liberal and neo-conservative approaches with which we’ve been long familiar. (Remember the “reality-based community” stuff back from the beginning of the war?) But on the other hand, Judt’s suggestion seems to contradict his criticism, earlier in the paper, of social democratic parties for their defensiveness, the fact that they’ve long since had “nothing distinctive to offer.” Still, worth taking a look at…

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 25, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Posted in crisis, socialism

Happy Xmas! (Past Is Over) / handke’s weight of the world

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From Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World:

A fine thing: suddenly to forget about one’s history, one’s past, to stop feeling that one’s present happiness is endangered by what one used to be, as a child, as an adolescent, etc.

That is to say, forget the novelization of life. A special peril for literary types, those invested in the novel as a form, whose mental architecture has been rebuilt in the shape of that genre. So what instead?

Do one thing after another as lucidly as possible: smell the bread, smell the schnapps, fold the paper – therein lies salvation.

One thinks first concentration. But it’s not just that, or perhaps not that at all. The lucidity seems to come in fact from relaxation, the escape from a special sort of self-tied knot:

That woman was walking so elegantly, and now, all of a sudden her gait is slovenly, lewd, and vulgar; she’s visibly relieved

These are the opposite of Joyce’s epiphanies. Can you feel the tension in this one despite the tiny form? The turn in regard? The pivot in his consideration across the and now?

Massive changes are afoot chez AWP, and AWP is looking at books, such as Handke’s,  for advice on how to manage it. And I don’t mean the blog. You should hear the kitchen table conversations. Lord. Handke is coming with on the big trip, despite the fact there are Other Things To Do.

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 25, 2009 at 1:58 am

Posted in handke