Thursday, May 05, 2022

La Ronde

someday it will have to be told how ‘anti–Stalinism,’ which started out more or less as ‘Trotskyism,’ turned into art for art’s sake, and...

Somewhere years ago I made an offhand comment about the fact that Jacobin, The Brooklyn Institute and years earlier The Brooklyn Rail, were all founded by members of the Asian immigrant bourgeois with a nostalgia for the lost world of the "NY Intellectuals." I remember running into Phong in the subway in the 80s, and he was excited to show me a book he'd just been given by "my friend Meyer" Schapiro.  I wasn't sure whether to believe him. When he started publishing the Brooklyn Rail it amused me how conservative it was. The Brooklyn art scene—unlike the earlier community of people who moved out of necessity—was always based on an outsiders' nostalgia. And "Brooklyn intellectualism" is now the model, but instead of working class kids from Brooklyn and the Bronx moving to Manhattan, the children of the American suburbs moved into working class neighborhoods to recreate the Manhattan of their midwestern fantasies. They didn't come to escape provincialism but to indulge it. This applies as much to the frat boys and ex-cheerleaders as the intellectuals.

But in the 90s pre-war utopianism was the stuff of October, not Phong's Brooklyn Rail.  The nostalgia has changed from post-war existentialism and ex-Trot abstraction, to pre-war apocalyptic romance. The book's published by MIT with an foreword by Geuss. It couldn't get more perfect.

It doesn't take more than an amateur sociologist to notice that utopianism flourishes in periods of crisis and functions more than anything else as avoidance. But you can't reason with the faithful.

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