Student Review: Left in the Past: Radicalism and the Politics of Nostalgia

February 24, 2011

Author: Alastair Bonnett
Edition: First
Publisher: Continuum
Pages: 208
Price: £55.00 and £14.99
ISBN: 9780826430069 and 0076

Radicalism is often viewed today simply as an object of nostalgia, and Left in the Past attempts to justify that proposition. Alastair Bonnett considers how the ideological demise of the traditional Left can explain the current phenomenon of political melancholy and nostalgia that shapes contemporary attitudes towards the future. He explores and gives insights into three main currents in the relationship between the Left and nostalgia, and how this ties in with today's societal expectations.

The author collates and analyses the works of prominent academics and writers in the field, adding his own insights along the way to create a contemporary view within the eschatology of radical nostalgia. As Bonnett deconstructs the arguments made by other scholars, he offers a fresh new perspective, and the book achieves its goal of stripping away the layers of radical melancholy and nostalgia.

While the structure is clear and each chapter delivers what is expected, Bonnett occasionally takes unexpected detours in order to reach or support his primary argument. As a result, maintaining focus and attention are essential in understanding this text. Bonnett also falls prey on occasion to false nostalgia, seeing the historical political Left through rose-tinted spectacles. On the other hand, he does acknowledge that nostalgia for the past has become a dark spot in the history of socialism. In addition, he also draws clear examples of pre- and postcolonial forms of nostalgia that in the modern world would be better recognised as being political activism.

While Bonnett shares an all-too-common longing for the past, he accepts the limitations this view can bring. It is that awareness that helps to make Left in the Past an enjoyable and captivating read, likely to engage with a general audience.

Who is it for? Anyone who is interested in the history, politics and psychology of today's society and its view of the past.
Presentation: An analytical/theoretical approach to the subject matter.
Would you recommend it? With great pleasure. It is an excellent read.


Lament for America: Decline of the Superpower, Plan for Renewal

Author: Earl H. Fry
Edition: First
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Pages: 2
Price: £12.99
ISBN: 9781442601918

Is the US' superpower status coming to an end? Now entering his fourth decade as a foreign observer and political commentator, Fry discusses the notion of dominance in the political arena. He focuses on the internal problems and challenges faced by the US and argues that if they are not addressed, they will provoke the downfall of the "foremost superpower in human history". The book aims to familiarise readers with the main attributes of a hegemonic nation; using an array of sources, Fry asks whether the US will soon be surpassed by other countries. In closely exploring the relevant domestic and foreign policy failures, Lament for America also considers external threats, such the countries that have become major competitors. In what is a relatively short book, Fry manages to cover a lot of ground in exploring possible solutions to a superpower's decline foretold and, some would argue, seemingly almost prearranged.

Who is it for? A guide for students interested in US politics (or how not to do it).
Presentation: Factual/analytical.
Would you recommend it? Yes. Fry offers useful insights into the internal politics and economics of the US.

The Crimes of Empire: Rogue Superpower and World Domination

Author: Carl Boggs
Edition: First
Publisher: Pluto
Pages: 320
Price: £60.00 and £18.99
ISBN: 9780745329468 and 9451

Liberal Intellectuals and Public Culture in Modern Britain, 1815-1914: Making Words Flesh

Author: William C. Lubenow
Edition: First
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Pages: 260
Price: £55.00
ISBN: 9781843835592

Yulia Morison is a third year Politics with French Language student at the University of Glasgow.

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