Alexei Kazakov –
Contemporary Nostalgia as a Symptom of Postmodern Temporality in the Work of Marcel Gauchet

Scholars of nostalgia are no strangers to the notion that the meaning of the word itself has moved through several different stages, from its origins as the medicalization of (spatial) homesickness in the late 17th century to the post-romantic (temporal) connotations of “spiritual homecoming” that it came to popularly signify by the time Svetlana Boym was doing her groundbreaking work at the turn of the 21st century. In effect, the meaning of nostalgia appears to evolve in lockstep with the evolution of modernity itself—its material conditions, its social disruptions, and most importantly, its explosion of the experience of temporality itself. Since the early 1980s, certain currents of French philosophy have been increasingly preoccupied with the notion of a “postmodern crisis of time”, revolving around such themes as the disappearance of the future as an intelligible concept, the feeling of the acceleration of history, and the loss of a clear orientation towards the past. This paper proposes to understand the contemporary resurgence of interest in nostalgia over the last decade as one further evolution in the meaning of the word itself—namely, as a reaction to this postmodern crisis of time—through a reading of Marcel Gauchet’s L’Avènement de la démocratie (The Advent of Democracy). Using Gauchet’s notion of “the political exit of religion” and the “patrimonialization of the past”, I hope to advance a new framework that refines scholars’ understanding of the contemporary phenomenon of nostalgia as distinct from its previous forms.


Alexei Kazakov is a Ph.D. student in Philosophy at the University of Ottawa in Canada, where he also received his BA (2018) and MA (2022). His research interests lie primarily in the critique of modernity at the intersection of two traditions of thought: Anglo-American post-analytic social philosophy (Alasdair MacIntyre, Bernard Williams, Charles Taylor) and the French anti-totalitarian left tradition of political philosophy influenced by Raymond Aron (Marcel Gauchet, Pierre Nora, Claude Lefort, Cornelius Castoriadis, etc.)