We All Want To Change The World

The Paradox of the US Left: a polemic

Apr 2015
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This online book is a continuation of Lawrence Grossberg’s analysis of the changing popular and political cultures – and the increasingly conservative and intensely capitalist vectors of change – of the United States during the last fifty years.

In this book, Lawrence Grossberg turns his attention from the forces that seem to be defining the success of the capitalist vectors of change in the US to the counterforces of dissatisfaction, resistance, opposition and creative alternatives, as a vital part of understanding what’s going on. He poses ‘the paradox of the left’: despite the many people involved in the great variety of such counterforces, the ‘left’ seems unable to create a broad, visible and effective movement for change.

Rather than attempting to assign blame, Grossberg considers the state of the left as both a product and expression of the very context it struggles against. That context, he suggests, is significantly shaped by, on the one hand, a set of crises of knowledge and critique, and, on the other, a specific affective organisation of pessimism. The result has been an increasing assertion of both absolute certainty and new universalisms in both intellectual and political judgments. Somewhere between a popular polemic and an academic critique, in this book Grossberg argues for more humble and convivial forms of unities in difference, whether as intellectual conversations or political movements.

Preface: Looking for the Blackberries
1. Beginnings: Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will 

The state of the world/What’s going on?/Telling stories in a complex world
2. The Fate of Knowledge
Reality is bad enough, why should I believe the truth?/On the road to relativism/Throwing critique out with the bathwater
3. Conjunctures
Another knowledge is possible/How does it feel?/Organizing pessimism
4. States of certainty I
Reaching through the looking glass/I heard it through the grapevine
5. States of certainty II
A Cartesian politics/Political correctness/Another politics is possible
6. The inevitably disappointing last chapter
An intellectual’s problem space/Movements, countercultures, organizations/Movements, states and organizations
A parting word among the blackberries