Academic journal article Utopian Studies

Fabricating the Future: Becoming Bloch's Utopians

Academic journal article Utopian Studies

Fabricating the Future: Becoming Bloch's Utopians

Article excerpt

   Thinking means venturing beyond.
   --(Bloch Principle of Hope 4 & 5)

   I suddenly woke up in the midst of this dream,
   but only to the consciousness that I am dreaming
   and must go on dreaming lest I perish!
   --(Nietzsche The Gay Science I, 54)

   Production without product, structuration without
   Structure ...
   --(Barthes S/Z 5)

Introduction.

ERNST BLOCH'S DEPICTION OF EXISTENCE as experienced under "the continuing spell of static living and thinking" (The Principle of Hope, 139 emphasis mine) stands as a diagnosis, a warning, and, vitally, a response; it is an "iconoclastic rebellion against [...] reification" (Bloch and Adorno 11) which is polyvalent and pervasive. Opposing the static spell, and thinking the world as possibility lies at the heart of Bloch's utopia(n vision). The aim of this essay is not simply definitional (utopia according to Bloch) although that task will form a crucial part. Rather, the aim of this essay is a political intervention: in short, I will argue that when a Blochian creative epistemology of the possible is posited as the central utopian dynamic, then the modality of utopian theorising changes from a potentially legislative, substantive mode, to a 'fictive' mode of process. So far, not much new. I will further argue that the politics this generates resolutely resists any attempt to reduce the possible to the given. This means utopia cannot blueprint or legislate a polity. Again, not much new: debates in utopian studies cover this area. (1) But I will conclude that this is by no means a political concession or a weakening of utopian thought. Rather, when the lines of thought which underpin utopian theorising change direction from future perfect to intransitive verb, this does not mean any loss of political affectivity, but indeed a gain. I claim ethical advantages for a mode of theorising which recognises its fictive modality. This needs explanation.

Utopia is invoked by those who are "not content to accept the bad which exists, do [...] not accept renunciation" (The Principle of Hope, 3). The space of the Blochian response I want to delineate is complex, epistemologically, temporally, and politically; and it concerns, precisely, "social dreaming" (Sargent 1). But this Blochian response can be situated somewhere between Nietzsche and Marcos, (2) in a terrain where dreaming works beyond its customary opposition to a wide-awake, real state. For as Nietzsche comes to discover (on the epistemological level): "I suddenly woke up in the midst of this dream, but only to the consciousness that I am dreaming and must go on dreaming lest I perish!" (Gay Science 1, 54 emphasis mine). And as Marcos knows, politically, "the great world power has not yet found the weapon to destroy dreams. Until it does, we will keep on dreaming, that is to say, we will keep on triumphing ..." (Our Word Is Our Weapon 97).

In delineating this space of social dreaming, I want, through and with Bloch amongst those others, to write part epistemological critique, and part political manifesto. Both parts are crucial: as Gunn argues, "revolution entails not merely a social reordering but an apocalyptic deconstruction of the linear clocktime in which history--that is, the history of alienation--unfolds" (92). For Ernst Bloch, as for Walter Benjamin, "our experiences of such fundamental ontological structures as time and space must be placed at issue in a transformation" which opens the future as something other than the reproduction of the present, or the given (Gunn 92). Bloch is disruptive on three mutually reinforcing levels of engagement (which nevertheless remain irreducible to one another). First, then, I explore temporality in Bloch: his thinking is profoundly and radically temporal, such that "the divisions between future and past thus themselves collapse, unbecome future becomes visible in the past, avenged and inherited, mediated and fulfilled past in the future" (The Principle of Hope, 8-9). …

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