T. J. Clark: “The Experience of Defeat”

On November 17th in Venice, a lecture by T. J. Clark: “The Experience of Defeat.”

“Whether or not the present Restoration is invulnerable, the Left in advanced capitalist countries has lived for the past two decades looking failure square in the face. The disappearance of a Left alternative from the space of politics, or even from the space of political imagination, remains the great fact of our time. Taking its title from Christopher Hill’s great study of radical writing after the English Civil War, this lecture is concerned, as part of that work, with the Left’s sense of progress. It asks what it could mean to a Left politics for it no longer to consider itself ‘on the side of history’ – not to imagine its task, in other words, as the realisation of the baulked potentials of capitalism and/or modernity, not to see its eventual victory written into the DNA of an economic order, not to posit some version of utopia, not, in a word, to ‘have the future in its bones’. Is a Left with no future a contradiction in terms? If not the future, then what? Is it only the Right that can (imaginatively, politically) dispense with the myth of freedom in full possession of technics? What aims and imagery might there be for an ‘un-modernity’ to come? “