Against Nostalgia

Tomorrow, I’m teaching Nancy’s The Truth of Democracy, which was written two years ago as part of talks he gave on the legacy of 1968. Thus, Infinite Thought’s post here on the legacy (or its lack) for the UK university demonstrations is more than just timely for thinking about the protests, with an overall discussion of inter-generational strife (between the boomers, who look to be pulling up the ladder after them) and those who will be stuck with their bills:

I definitely don’t think inter-generational politics do any good – ok, so saying ‘f*** 68’ is perhaps a bit strong, but it’s the image of 68 that writers like Toynbee persist in perpetuating that irks me – parochial, self-congratulatory, cultural rather than political. Somewhat more pettily, I was a bit dismayed to see 68 posters adorning the walls of UCL yesterday (or did I imagine it?): given how organised and brilliant the students are, I wanted them to make new posters! To be fair, they did have some excellent economics stats around the room and this picture of Bentham is lovely.

I don’t ‘blame’ the boomers for the crisis, though I do think pointing out the hypocrisy of those who had free education and grants taking it away from others should be done as often as possible. Of course this is a discussion about the ruling class, on the one hand and everyone else, regardless of their generational tag. There are clearly lots of non-rich, non-second home-owning baby boomers, lots of left-wing baby boomers who didn’t sell out, those who didn’t turn revolutionary slogans into ad taglines, and so on, just as there are some young rich a***holes who care about nothing more than money and preserving their class status. The rhetoric of generations is a reactionary rhetoric, no doubt about it, and it is no coincidence that Willetts et al can tap into it while simultaneously f***ing over vast swathes of the population.

What will no doubt come after this moment (hopefully) will be new narratives of protest movements, not more of the deja vu politics that adds in another date to the list (1889, 1848, 1968, 2010, etc.)…

ADDENDUM: Speaking of which, there’s this recent piece by Toscano on Badiou’s Marxism (I’m thinking here of the relevance of the first two paragraphs before it moves to a general reading of Badiou’s approach):

Today’s radical political (or metapolitical) theory is the offspring of a contorted dialectic of defeat and reinvention.1 Though it is common to take contemporary ideas on emancipation and political subjectivity at face value, many of the defining characteristics of these recent writings are obscured if we fail to address how they emerged out of a reckoning with the failure or  distortion of Marxist politics, and, moreover, if we disregard the extent to which they maintain an underlying commitment to the Marxist impulse whence they arose…