Preface – Protocols of the Elders of Sodom

Preface to The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom

What these essays share in common is a refusal to downgrade politics and history in favour of academic ‘discourse’, the general trend of which has, over the last three decades, been mind-numbing. Aijaz Ahmed, in particular, has written sharply on the impact of postmodernism on discussions of literature and culture as a whole. The same three decades also produced a single and dominant narrative in the form of global capitalism, policed by the economic, political and ideological instruments of the Washington Consensus. This ensemble of relations, in which campus postmodernism played a significant part by encouraging blindness, was severely disrupted by the Wall Street crash of 2008. The events of 9/11 and the subsequent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq had already made it difficult to completely ignore history. The wave of rebellions and the resulting electoral triumphs for the Left in South America, with Paraguay and El Salvador as its latest, were a clear indication that politics was in a process of recomposition. Now political economy, too, has returned with a vengeance. This has revived an interest in ideas long considered unfashionable or even moribund. A good time, I thought, to publish these essays in book form. The first three were written especially for this volume. Others have appeared in various publications but mainly the New Left Review and the London Review of Books. Some were published in the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the Nation. Three conversations––Rushdie, Vargas Llosa and Juan Goytisolo–– took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. They have been severely edited. Pedants interested in the complete versions can find them in the archives of the Tate Modern. Thanks to all at Verso in London and New York, and especially Lorna Scott-Fox, for ensuring they were publishable and produced on time.

Tariq Ali, April 2009