THERE IS A BAD THEORETICAL HABIT common among leftists: the confirmation of revolutionary aspirations through an unmediated verification by the “facts” or “data.” The ghost of an “objective” reality obscures the effort to grasp the “concrete” as the combination of many abstractions and, instead, “a chaotic representation [Vorstellung] of the whole” (Marx) is preferred, offering a temporary foundation for self-affirmation and miraculously turning a “bad” reality into a “good” one. A more critical way to regard “facts,” related to the pursuit and furtherance of freedom in society, is forgotten if not defamed today. As Max Horkheimer once put it: “But in regard to the essential kind of change at which the critical theory aims, there can be no corresponding concrete perception of it until it actually comes about. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the eating here is still in the future. Comparison with similar historical events can be drawn only in a limited degree.”
Last fall, editor Spencer A. Leonard interviewed Michael Dawson, Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. The interview, which centered around a discussion of Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm X, was broadcast on September 30, 2011 on the radio show Radical Minds on WHPK–FM Chicago. What follows is a revised and edited transcript of the interview.
THE PRESENT OCCUPATION MOVEMENT expresses a return to the Left of the late 1990s, specifically the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.