What on earth intellectual life has come to when neoliberals call for a strong Left with which to do battle and revolutionaries plead for a quiet life. There are several curious motivations at stake here – Fukuyama, raised on an bilateral image of the world in which communism and capitalism formed irreconcilable but immensely powerful economic and political blocs, does not enjoy a post-Cold War environment without intellectual opponents against which to hone his neoliberal rhetoric; TJ Clark, on the other hand, having been a part of the struggle for so long, is tired of ‘big ideas, the revolutionary stylistics’ of a Left he, like Fukuyama, sees as profoundly marginalised and self-marginalising.
Time itself seems exhausted. The Left has no future; something is profoundly wrong; there’s no counter-narrative. Susan Watkins’ response to Clark’s tragic pessimism (an essay, ‘Presentism?’, also in New Left Review) points to the ‘range of uneven temporalities at work within the same chronological time’ as a way of demonstrating that not everyone has given up on the future – or even the future in the present.