Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt

There's something remarkably prescient about this collection of pugnacious essays from 1994 to 2006. Not only does Tony Judt attack New Labour's worship of the private sector and "the irritating overconfidence of contemporary free-marketeers of the right", but he even directs us to read Keynes. Judt is spoiling for a fight most of the time, and many of these essays, most from the New York Review of Books, conclude with a note detailing the further insults they provoked in the letters pages. "We have forgotten how to think politically," he contends, and we live in an unpolitical "age of forgetting". Our immediate past remains incomprehensible to us, especially the powerful imaginative appeal of Marxism across Europe. He then predicts that a new Marxism, plus a renewed faith in the state, may yet make a comeback as the injustices of globalisation are exposed. He also mourns the passing of the 20th-century intellectual (Edward Said, Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler) and "the strange death of liberal America" during the Bush administration.

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