Lives on the Left by Francis Mulhern
A Group Portrait

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Synopsis

The extended critical interview is especially flexible as a form, by turns tenacious and glancing, elliptical or sustained, combining argument and counter-argument, reflection, history and memoir with a freedom normally denied to its subjects in conventional writing formats. Lives on the Left brings together sixteen such interviews from New Left Review in a group portrait of intellectual engagement in the twentieth century and since.

Four generations of intellectuals discuss their political histories and present perspectives, and the specialized work for which they are, often, best known. Their recollections span the century from the Great War and the October Revolution to the present, ranging across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Psychoanalysis, philosophy, the gendering of private and public life, capital and class formation, the novel, geography, and language are among the topics of theoretical discussion. At the heart of the collection, in all its diversity of testimony and judgement, is critical experience of communism and the tradition of Marx, relayed now for a new generation of readers.

Lives on the Left includes interviews with Georg Lukács, Hedda Korsch, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dorothy Thompson, Jiri Pelikan, Ernest Mandel, Luciana Castellina, Lucio Colletti, K. Damodaran, Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Adolfo Gilly, João Pedro Stédile, Asada Akira, Wang Hui and Giovanni Arrighi.

New Left Review was founded in 1960 in London, which has remained its base ever since. In fifty years of publication, it has won an international reputation as an independent journal of socialist politics and ideas, attracting readers and contributors from every part of the world. A Spanish-language edition is published bi-monthly from Madrid.
 

About Francis Mulhern

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Francis Mulhern is Associate Editor of New Left Review. His books include The Moment of “Scrutiny”, Culture/Metaculture and the edited collection Lives on the Left: Interviews with New Left Review.Giovanni Arrighi (1937–2009) was Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. His books include The Long Twentieth Century, Adam Smith in Beijing, and, with Beverly Silver, Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System. His work has appeared in many publications, including New Left Review—who published an interview on his life-long intellectual trajectory in March–April 2009, and an obituary in Nov–Dec 2009—and there are more accounts on his memorial website.Asada Akira is a critic and curator and the current head of the Graduate School at the Kyoto University of Art and Design. His first book, published in 1983, was Structure and Power: Beyond Semiotics. Since then he has published, among other things, Beyond “the End of History” and The End of Cinema’s Century. He was co-editor of Hihyokukan (“Critical Space”).Luciana Castellina has been a leading figure of the Italian Left since the 1960s. She co-founded the Partito di Unità Proletaria per il communismo (PdUP) and the Movimento dei Comunisti Unitari (CU). She was a member of the European parliament from 1979 to 1999 and has been at different times the editor of Nuovo Generazione, il manifesto and Liberazione.Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of American Power and the New Mandarins, Manufacturing Consent (with Ed Herman), Deterring Democracy, Year 501, World Orders Old and New, Powers and Prospects, Profit over People, The New Military Humanism and Rogue States.Lucio Colletti (1924–2001) served on the editorial board of Società, the cultural journal of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). After his split with PCI, he became a staunch left critic of its political and cultural orthodoxy. In his final years, he shifted to the right, joining the camp of Silvio Berlusconi and serving as parliamentary deputy as part of Forza Italia.K. Damodaran (1904–1976) was a prolific writer came to Marxism after early experience of militancy and imprisonment in the cause of Indian independence. He was one of the founders of the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and went on to serve on the party’s National Council and Central Executive, and in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian legislature.Adolfo Gilly is a professor of history and politics at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the author of the classic study La revolución interrumpida (in English, The Mexican Revolution), which was conceived and written while he was imprisoned.David Harvey teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is the author of many books, including Social Justice and the City, The Condition of Postmodernity, The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Spaces of Global Capitalism, and A Companion to Marx’s Capital. His website is davidharvey.orgWang Hui is a professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he currently lives. He studied at Yangzhou University, Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He has also been a visiting professor at NYU and other universities in the U.S. In 1989, he participated in the Tiananmen Square Protests and was subsequently sent to a poor inland province for compulsory “re-education” as punishment for his participation. He developed a leftist critique of government policy and came to be one of the leading proponents of the Chinese New Left in the 1990s, though Wang Hui did not choose this term. Wang was named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world in 2008 by Foreign Policy.Hedda Korsch (1890–1982) helped form the German Communist Parth (KPD) and was a teacher at the University of Jena in the early 1920s. She also worked in experimental schools and the Soviet Trade Mission in Berlin, until KPD leaders had her dismissed because of her relationship to the Marxist theorist Karl Korsch.Georg Lukács (1885–1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. Most scholars consider him to be the founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the ideas of reification and class consciousness to Marxist philosophy and theory, and his literary criticism was influential in thinking about realism and about the novel as a literary genre. He served briefly as Hungary’s Minister of Culture following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.Ernest Mandel (1923–95), historian, economist and activist, was a leading figure in the Fourth International from 1945 and was the author of a number of books, including Late Capitalism, Marxist Economic Theory, Long Waves of Capitalist Development, and The Meaning of the Second World War.Jiri Pelikan (1923–1999) was the head of the Czech Students’ Union and later served in the Central Committee and parliamentary group of the Czech Communist Party. He was a prominent actor in the movement that culminated in the Prague Spring of 1967–68. In his later years in exile, Pelikan published the émigré magazine Listy, and collaborated with Charter 77. His struggle for socialist reform in Czechoslovakia made him the target of a letter-bomb attack and a kidnap attempt. From 1979 to 1989, he sat for the Italian Socialist Party in the European Parliament.Jean-Paul Sartre was a prolific philosopher, novelist, public intellectual, biographer, playwright and founder of the journal Les Temps Modernes. Born in Paris in 1905 and died in 1980, Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964—and turned it down. His books include Nausea, Intimacy, The Flies, No Exit, Sartre’s War Diaries, Critique of Dialectical Reason, and the monumental treatise Being and Nothingness.João Pedro Stédile is an advocate for agrarian reform in Brazil, both as a writer and as a leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), of which he was a co-founder. His numerous publications include the three-volume A Questão Agraria no Brasil.Dorothy Thompson taught in the School of History in the University of Birmingham, where she wrote a series of highly regarded books about Chartism and other topics in nineteenth-century British history—among them, Early Chartists, Chartism in Wales and Ireland, Outsiders: Class, Gender and Nation and Queen Victoria: Gender and Power. Her edited volume Over Our Dead Bodies: Women Against the Bomb testified to her engagement in post-war peace movements.
 
Published November 7, 2011 by Verso. 393 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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