Milton has a great phrase; he says: ‘‘A good book is the precious life-
a master’s spirit.’’ But it is more than that. It is the result of the circu
of the age playing upon a mentality and the circumstances of people
central to it.
My most general concern in this book is with the conceptual
of political presents and with how reconstructed pasts and ant
futures are thought out in relation to them. More specifically,
cipal concern is with ourown postcolonial present,our present
collapse of the social and political hopes that went into the a
nial imagining and postcolonial making of national sovereignt
is our present, as I have put it elsewhere, after
is with the relation between this (as it seems to me) dead-end
and, on the one hand, the old utopian futures that inspired a
long time sustained it and, on the other, an imagined idiom o
futures that might reanimate this present and even engender i
and unexpected horizons of transformative possibility.
What are the critical conceptual resources needed for this e
There is today no clear answer to this question. In many part
once-colonized world (not least in the one that forms the geo
background—if not the specific object—of this book, the Car
in the early decades of new nationhood an earnestly progressiv
ogy (radical nationalisms, Marxisms, Fanonian liberationisms,
nous socialisms, or what have you) aimed at giving point to t
tion between where we have come from, where we are, and w
might be going, these days even the nostalgia for what the lat
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