In 1936, at another moment of capitalist crisis, George Orwell wrote:
“Under the capitalist system, in order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation– an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream. The alternative is to throw the Empire overboard and reduce England to a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes. That is the very last thing that any left-winger wants.”
In this lecture, Bruce Robbins returns to this challenge to ask, “What do we think of it now?”
Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor of the Humanities in the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His books include Upward Mobility and the Common Good (2007), Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (1999), and Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (1993). He is editor of Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics (1990) and The Phantom Public Sphere (1993), and co-editor (with Pheng Cheah) of Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (1998). His current book project is entitled Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence.