Contemporary injustice often manifests itself in the form of structural

Contemporary injustice often manifests itself in the

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versions of progressivist politics have frequently abused the idea of a struggle for a more just future in order to justify past and present suffering. It could even be argued that the rise of dominant restrospective politics has been initiated partly on the basis of disillusionment with the exculpatory mechanisms of progressivist ideology.16 Some indeed claim that much of present-day retrospective politics and the “setting straight” of historical injustices would be unnecessary had totalitarian progressivist politics focused less exclusively on the bright future and shown more sensitivity to the contemporary suffering of its day. This claim certainlymakes sense if one thinks of extreme examples such as Stalin's five-year plans and Mao's Great Leap Forward. Yet, as Matthias Frisch rightly argues, the risk of the justification of past and present suffering lurks around the corner wherever progressive logics of history or promises of bright and just futures are not counterbalanced by reflective forms of remembrance.17Therefore, we should resist dualist thinking that forces us to choose between restitution for historical injustices and struggle for justice in the present or the future. Rather,we should look for types of retrospective politics that do not oppose but complementor reinforce the emancipatory and utopian elements in present- and future-directed politicsandthe other way around: present- and future-oriented politics that do not forget about historical injustices.In this paper I want to contribute to this goal by focusing on the issue of retrospective politics and by analyzing how one can differentiate emancipatory or even utopian types of retrospective politics from retrospective politics that I classify here as anti-utopian. I argue that the currently dominantstrands of retrospective politicsindeed do tend tobe anti-utopian and have a very limited emancipatory potential. Moreover, I claim that currently dominant retrospective politics do not radically break withseveral of the exculpatory intellectual mechanismsthatare typically associated with progressivist politics but actually modify and sometimes even radicalize them. In that restricted sense, and only in this sense, it can be argued that currently dominant retrospective politics do not represent a fundamentally new way of dealing with historical evil and the ethics of responsibility.My perspective is not a pessimistic one, however. Besides the currently dominant retrospective politics, there existother strands of retrospective politics thatdo have emancipatoryor even utopian featuresand that do not force us to choose between restitution for historical injustices and struggle for justice in the present or the future. Anti-utopianism and ethical “passeism,”I argue, are not inherent or necessary features
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