Joshua Clover


On his book 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About

Cover Interview of February 23, 2010


What sometimes seem like complete episodes turn out to extraordinarily partial, to be awaiting their complement. Some might say that 1989 was answered a dozen years later, the fall of the Wall answered by the fall of the Towers. It seems right to say, at least, that the period 1989-2001 suddenly became visible as a distinct era, a sunny “Pax Americana” (war-filled as every other Pax) in which the US was unchallenged as a global power. But this period was not summer so much as autumn for the US empire. It’s probably more accurate to consider the answering event to be the economic collapse of 2008: “capitalism’s 1989,” let’s call it. Not the end of an idea, but its discrediting on a global scale.

And as a result the very terms that were disallowed, lost, rendered unspeakable in 1989—“communism,” “socialism” even “class”—have returned. They’ve returned in part as mock-up demons for political hysterics. But also as serious topics of conversation: one is at least able to entertain “the communist hypothesis” without appearing purely as a quaint recidivist.

The book is in many ways about the paradoxical feeling which contains both the exultation of triumph, of overcoming, of the end of a struggle—but also the loss of something instantly out of reach, and the haunting feeling it might still matter. This is what is now returning, bit by bit. The book’s topic, the events of 1989: in the moment it all seemed exclusively like the end of a long story, a denouement. But from another perspective it’s merely the preface.

© 2010 Joshua Clover