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At the heart of the Soviet vision there were always those burning eyes gazing intently, and with total confidence, toward the promised land.
The utopias of desire make little sense in a world overrun by cheap entertainment, unbridled consumerism and narcissistic behavior.
The utopias of technology are less impressive than ever now that — after Hiroshima and Chernobyl — we are fully aware of the destructive potential of technology.
And yet imagining it, as philosophers, artists and politicians have done ever since, is far from pointless. “Utopia,” his fictional travelogue about an island of plenty and equality, is told by a character whose name, Hythloday, yet another playful conjoining of Greek words, signifies something like “nonsense peddler.” Although More comes across as being quite fond of his noplace, he occasionally interrupts the narrative by warning against the islanders’ rejection of private property.
Living under the reign of the autocratic Henry VIII, and being a prominent social figure, More might not have wanted to rock the boat too much.
Anti-utopianism may, as in much recent liberalism, call for controlled, incremental change.
The main task of government, Barack Obama ended up saying, is to avoid doing stupid stuff.While the French Revolution had its fair share of such visions, they reached an apotheosis in 20th-century Marxist politics.Despite his own personal rejection of utopianism, Lenin, high on his pedestal addressing workers in October 1917, came to be the embodiment of all three forms of utopia. By conjoining the Greek adverb “ou” (“not”) and the noun “topos” (“place”) the English humanist and politician Thomas More conceived of a place that is not — literally a “nowhere” or “noplace.” More’s learned readers would also have recognized another pun.The pronunciation of “utopia” can just as well be associated with “eu-topia,” which in Greek means “happy place.” Happiness, More might have suggested, is something we can only imagine.They say one thing, but when we attempt to realize them they seem to imply something entirely different.Their demand for perfection in all things human is often pitched at such a high level that they come across as aggressive and ultimately destructive.However, anti-utopianism may also become atavistic and beckon us to return, regardless of any cost, to an idealized past.In such cases, the utopian narrative gets replaced by myth. To many people the answer to both questions is a resounding no. They may even provide some kind of purpose to our strivings as citizens and political beings.Their rejection of the past, and of established practice, is subject to its own logic of brutality.And not only has the utopian imagination been stung by its own failures, it has also had to face up to the two fundamental dystopias of our time: those of ecological collapse and thermonuclear warfare. Yet these are not challenges but chillingly realistic scenarios of utter destruction and the eventual elimination of the human species.