The future is now: Utopian demands and the temporalities of hope

The fifth and penultimate chapter of Kathi Weeks' "The Problem With Work". It deals with the role of utopianism in the creation of movements, the framing of programmes and manifestos.

Submitted by ocelot on October 18, 2012

The Future Is Now
Utopian Demands and the Temporalities of Hope

Be realistic, demand the impossible.

Only thinking directed towards changing the world and informing the desire to change it does not confront the future (the unclosed space for new development in front of us) as embarrassment and the past as spell.

In the current political climate, the demands for basic income and shorter hours could of course be dismissed as "merely utopian." Rather than waste time on impractical and untimely demands, so the argument goes, feminists and others should conserve their meager energies and set their sights on more politically feasible goals. This familiar logic makes it easy to write such demands off as unrealistic, and therefore as potentially dangerous distractions from the necessarily modest and small-scale parameters of political reform. That is, the supposed utopianism of these demands is often considered a fàtal flaw. One could perhaps contest the claim that these demands are aptly designated utopian in this time and place, and certainly I have tried to point out their practicality in relation to current economic trends. But there is another way to respond to the critique. What if the utopianism of these demands is not a liability but an asset? 'What if we were to respond to the charge of utopianism not with embarrassment or defensive denial but with recognition and affirmation? And what might such a utopianism without apology look like? Rather than deny the applicability of the appellation "utopian" to escape its pejorative connotations, in this chapter I want to accept the label, reconsider utopianism as a distinctive mode of thought and practice, and explore what a utopian demand is and what it can do.

Of course, part of what is in dispute here is the status of the term. The definition of "utopia" in this chapter is broadly conceived, including not just the more traditional list of literary and philosophical blueprints of the good society, but also, as I will describe, a variety of partial glimpses of and incitements toward the imagination and construction of alternatives. One of these more fractional forms, the "utopian demand" - as I use the phrase - is a political demand that takes the form not of a narrowly pragmatic reform but of a more substantial transformation of the present configuration of social relations; it is a demand that raises eyebrows, one for which we would probably not expect immediate success. These are demands that would be difficult - though not impossible - to realize in the present institutional and ideological context; to be considered feasible, a number of shifts in the terrain of political discourse must be effected. In this sense, a utopian demand prefigures - again in fragmentary form - a different world, a world in which the program or policy that the demand promotes would be considered as a matter of course both practical and reasonable. It is not, however, just the status of the program or policy that is at stake; as the proponents of wages for housework recognized, the political practice of demanding is of crucial importance as well.

Since my claim is that the power of these demands can be better grasped once their utopian dimensions are more fully understood, I will begin with a more general exploration of the territory of utopianism. In preparation for this analysis of the utopian demand, I divide the chapter into three sections. The first reviews the case against utopia. The analysis in this section is historical, focusing on how utopianism came to be marginalized in the period after the Second World War, and on what grounds it has most often been discredited since. By drawing on a few examples from the Right and Left, we can collect many of the most significant obstacles and objections to utopian thinking and activism. In response to these critiques, the second section presents a philosophical defense drawn primarily from the work of Ernst Bloch. The discussion centers on the ontology and epistemology of utopian speculation and finishes with an exploration of the concept of hope and the cognitive and affective challenges it poses to those who would take it on as a project. In the third section, the analysis shifts registers yet again, moving from the historical focus of the first section and the philosophical territory of the second to the formal terrain of the utopian archive. The brief exploration of the forms and functions of utopian expression considers the possibilities and limitations of a range of genres, from the traditional literary and philosophical utopia, to the manifesto, and, finally, to the utopian demand. My supposition is that setting the utopian demand in relation to these other, more familiar artifacts can bring into sharper focus both its general qualifications and its specific merits as a utopian form.


In this section, I want to gather some of the standard objections to utopian thought and practice. We can begin with what might be called an anti-utopianism of the Right - to match the genealogy of Left anti-utopianism that follows - but it is really drawn from a tradition of liberal discourse, and the specific examples I consider have been prominently represented in mainstream political discourse. We might think of this, then, as an official anti-utopianism. Although Marxism harbors its own anti-utopian tendencies, a point I will touch upon below, liberalism has long been home to some of utopianism's most vociferous and - particularly in the Anglophone context - influential critics. Disowning its own utopian origins and impulses once it attained the comfortable status of a dominant ideology dedicated to the conservation of existing regimes, liberalism endorses piecemeal reformism as the only acceptable political course. Socialism, broadly conceived, is liberal anti-utopianism's most enduring target; thus anti-utopianism was, for a substantial part of the twentieth century in the United States, intimately linked to anticommunism. Consequently, the specific contents of liberal anti-utopianism in the United States shifted significantly with the fall of state socialism at the end of the Cold War. To understand the current case against utopianism, it is useful to review briefly its evolution in relation to some of these various instantiations, including liberal, neoliberal, and neoconservative versions, as they continue to provide a repertoire for official anti-utopianism.

To trace the lineages of contemporary anti-utopian discourse in the United States, I want to focus on two key texts produced at very different moments in the evolution of official US anti-utopianism, each of which was celebrated for both its persuasiveness and its prescience. The first of these, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, first published in 1945, anticipated the Cold War threat to liberalism's ideological ascendance and confidence; the second, Francis Fukuyama's 1989 "The End of History?" declared the end of that threat. Each text announces the dawn of a new political era and marks a specific moment of anti-utopian revival, when liberalism's general distrust of utopianism reasserts itself in reaction to new events. Fascism was one of these threats, but the two authors agree that at least by 1950 the more pressing challenge was posed by communism (Fukuyama 1989, 9; Popper 1950, vii)[1]. As bookends to the Cold War, one mode of anti-utopianism expresses the anxieties of liberalism under siege while the other emerges from the confidence in liberalism's triumph.

Popper's book, together with an article that amplifies some of its central themes, offers an unusually clear and forceful example of a nonetheless rather typical brand of Cold War anti-utopianism. The struggle between reason and passion is the stage upon which this critique is staged. We must understand, Popper argues, that proposals for radical change threaten reason and hence civilization. He distinguishes rationalists like himself - whose ideals are discovered by and propagated through reasoned argument and held with what he describes as "the rational attitude of the impartial judge" (1947-48, 115) - from "Utopianists" whose ideals are spread by appeal to the emotions and adhered to with passionate attachment. The former evinces a "sane attitude towards our own existence and its limitations' while the latter interjects a "hysterical" element (116). Whereas reason is linked in his account with the promise of human community and harmony, utopianism - with its "irrational" appeals to inherently divisive affects and emotions - leads ineluctably, according to this Hobbesian logic, to violence (1950, 419). Such dreams of a substantially different and better world are dangerous; they threaten to "intoxicate" and then seduce us, upsetting the apparently hard-won and always tenuous rule of reason. Rejecting the approach to political activism and reform he labels "Utopian engineering" in favor of "piecemeal engineering," Popper strives to convince us that small-scale alterations of the existing system - "searching for, and fighting against, the greatest and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching for, and fighting for, its ultimate greatest good" (155) - is the only rational course of political action. There is, according to this analysis, no reasonable alternative to liberalism.

Fukuyama agrees with Popper that the small-scale reform of liberal democracies is the only reasonable approach to social change, but for rather different reasons.[2] 'Whereas Popper wrote on the eve of the Cold War, Fukuyama wrote when the two major challengers to liberalism targeted by Popper's critique - fascism and communism - had been declared defeated. Trying to come to terms with the sense that "something very fundamental has happened in world history" (1989, 3), Fukuyama advances the thesis that what the end of the Cold War signals is nothing less than "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government" (a). It is not just that the Cold War is over, history itself has come to an end. This "triumph of the West" together with the "total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism" obviates ideological pretensions to and struggles for a different and higher form of human society (3, 13)[3]. Fukuyama's brand of liberal anti-utopianism is thus no longer presented as prescriptive but as descriptive: it purports to explain a political reality that we need to acknowledge, rather than to advance an ideal we should strive to achieve and rally to defend. The mighty and subversive passions that loom so large in Popper's account are cut down to size in Fukuyama's, reduced to no more than the easily resisted and relatively mundane lures of nostalgic longing. For better or worse, utopian dreams have been drained of their affective charge. To the utopian belief that a new and better world is possible, an earlier generation of anti-utopians responded with the argument that there should be no alternative. These anti-utopians declare in this new ideological moment in Anglo-American liberalism, a moment that marks the ascendance of neoliberalism that there is no alternative. What Popper defends in the name of rationalism is now proclaimed under the banner of realism. Utopia is no longer dangerous, just irrelevant.

What Popper advocates, the unrivaled ascendance of liberal ideology, Fukuyama declares achieved. Yet both authors admit to some regrets, as if in these moments of political transition - poised, as each felt himself to be, on the brink of a new political era - they are close enough to the epochs now supplanted to contemplate some remorse. Although Popper defends pragmatism and empiricism against irrational dreams of a different society, he acknowledges as indeed all "too attractive" the pull of utopianism (1947-48, 112), gesturing in this way to the boredom of sobriety, the tedium of always standing on the side of reason against the passions and the wearisome vigilance required to resist their appeal.[4] Fukuyama's regret - perhaps because it assumes the form of a relatively harmless nostalgia for that which has been decisively defeated - is more pronounced, more explicitly thematized. In contrast to Popper's Hobbesian mode of argument, which incites the passions in order to convince us of the threat they can pose, Fukuyama exhibits something closer to a Weberian resignation to a disenchanted world, a perspective inflected by a profound ambivalence about what has been sacrificed on the altar of progress. Confronted with such loss, Fukuyama pines for earlier eras not yet devoid of daring and creativity, before political innovation, courage, and idealism gave way to instrumental reason, cost-benefit analysis, technocratic problem solving, and shopping (1989, 118).[5] It is no wonder that their two brands of anti-utopianism breed remorse: what the accounts disavow - Popper's enemy and Fukuyama's casualty of war - is the very possibility of political imagination and aspiration, nothing less than hope itself.

Fukuyama declares liberalism the winner, but not with the kind of confidence that accompanied declarations in the 1990S of liberalism's unrivaled and world-historic ascendancy. In the transition from the Cold War era of superpower competition to the emergence of triumphant neoliberalism in the age of empire, Fukuyama's then rather speculative claims (the title of the essay was a question: "The End of History?") ossify into official common sense. The end of the Cold War and the threat to liberal politics that Popper so feared cleared the way for the rise of neoliberalism in its fundamentalist mode, a discourse that in many ways dominated the 1990s. Centered on the strident insistence that, in Margaret Thatcher's famous formulation, there is no alternative, the neoliberal anti-utopianism of the 1990s seemed to be absolved of Popper's regrets and relieved of Fukuyama's nostalgia. This acquiescence cast as realism was compounded by what Pierre Bourdieu characterizes as a new kind of economic fatalism "that wants us to believe the world cannot be any different from the way it is" (1998, 128). Neoliberalism's renewed "romance of the capitalist market" as the site of freedom's security is coupled with a revived romance of the privatized family as the necessary locus of social reproduction and a haven in a heartless world (Brenner 2000, 137). The parameters of what is accepted as reality and representations of it that are deemed realistic narrow to coincide with whatever is judged to be consistent with the exigencies of global capital accumulation.

This late 1990s consensus was at least interrupted, if not thrown into crisis, in the early years of the next decade. Fukuyama's prediction of a boring harmony, as Samuel Huntington notes, soon revealed itself to be an "illusion" (1996, 31). Financial crises, global rebellions against neoliberalism, and terrorism and the ongoing war on terror posed challenges to older Cold War and post-Cold War mappings of the world order, giving rise to a political climate in some ways even less hospitable to ideas that challenged the legitimacy of the status quo and political demands or cultural practices that attempted to weaken attachments to what Huntington calls our "civiizational identity" There are, according to this neoconservative discourse, new threats to liberal reason that demand our sacrifice and vigilance, the defeat of which will require the affirmation of shared assumptions and values. Thus the United States in the era of George W. Bush was cast back into an environment more conducive to Popper's anti-utopianism of crisis than to Fukuyama's anti-utopianism of triumph.

What I am calling official anti-utopianism alternates between these basic options, an anti-utopianism fueled by a sense of liberalism under threat and one born of a sense of its dominance. While liberalism continues to mutate into new forms, its case against utopia continues to revolve around a fairly stable set of indictments - between something akin to Popper's approach and Fukuyama's diagnosis, between the rationalist and realist rebukes, between the claim that there should be no alternative and the assurance that there is no alternative. Liberalism continues to consider small-scale reformism the only rational and realistic political option. Speculation about alternative futures is, from the perspective of this classic anti-utopian ontology and epistemology, at best naive and at worst dangerous.

Echoes of these two modes of critique, summarized in the insistence that there should be no alternative and the conclusion that there is no alternative, can also be found in Left brands of anti-utopianism. But there are further objections to consider as well. A brief exploration of the decline of and retreat from utopianism within second-wave feminism might illustrate the logics and styles of some of the recent anti- or post- utopianisms of the Left and provide an opportunity to add to the list of rejections of and resistances to utopian expressions and commitments.

Feminism is an interesting representative case because feminist projects have long been linked with utopianism. If political realism tends to be associated with a mode of hard-nosed, hard-ball politics, utopianism can be understood - building on this traditional gender logic - as both softhearted and softheaded, or, more precisely, softheaded because softhearted. This traditional feminization of utopianism is reinforced by its link to feminism's historical investment in denaturalization as a mode of theoretical practice and political intervention. When social relations are stabilized by recourse to claims about their natural basis, analyses that question their value and propose alternatives can easily be dismissed as unrealistic. One of Anglo-American feminism's early architects, Mary Wollstonecraft, was thus forced to acknowledge - as a way to inoculate herself from the penalties of the charge - that even her relatively moderate visions of gender equality could, despite her own conviction of their reasonableness, "be termed Utopian dreams" (1996, 35).

Feminists themselves have, at different times and to different degrees, embraced and actively pursued utopian thinking or sought to distance themselves from it. The 1970s witnessed a resurgence of Left utopian projects in the United States, and perhaps nowhere were they pursued with more energy and creativity than within feminism. Radical and socialist feminists in particular cultivated utopian themes with their insistence that everyday life could and should be wholly transformed. This was the period in which Shulamith Firestone's infamous call to seize control over the means of reproduction (1970, 11) was received with no little interest; in which radical feminist groups like the Feminists audaciously demanded not just equal treatment but the elimination of the institutions of heterosexual sex, love, marriage, and the family (1973, 370); in which alternative communities were founded and abandoned in a flurry of experimentation; and in which the feminist literary utopia flourished, imagining a dizzying variety of worlds in which existing gender formations were variously destroyed, reversed, or revolutionized.[6]

However, this interest in feminist utopian thought and activism soon waned. The early 198os witnessed a decline of feminist utopian literature, matched by a comparable retreat from the utopian in feminist theory (Fitting 1990; Benhabib 1991, 146-47; Goodwin 1990,3-4). This diminution of utopian energies in US feminism in the 198os and 19905 must be understood in the context of the same processes of economic and political restructuring that were linked to the resurgence of official brands of anti-utopianism. Economic developments that eroded the traditional bases of working-class power and rendered workers increasingly vulnerable to employers and welfare reform that sought to make mothers more dependent on either waged work or marriage were hardly conducive to utopian hopes about alternatives to work and family. The pressures of getting by in hard times tend not, as Robin Kelley notes, to be generative of the political imagination; instead, "we are constantly putting out fires, responding to emergencies, finding temporary refuge, all of which make it difficult to see anything other than the present" (2002, 11). Consumed by the here and now, the possibilities of alternatives to the ever more reified structures of late capitalism come to seem more distant in such periods. "The leaner and meaner world of the 1980s and 1990s was:' as Tom Moylan describes it, "marked by anti-utopian deprivation rather than utopian achievement" (2000, 103).

These same developments fueled an assault on many of the bases of political movements in the 1960s and 1970s, including feminism. The 1980s backlash against the more robust and radical forms of identity-based politics, including feminism, and the 1990s restoration of some of their elements within tamer affirmations of diversity or multicultural difference raised new questions about the viability of the more utopian elements of these theoretical projects and political movements. In such a context, utopian forms of speculation and activism were often reconceived as inadequate to the realities of a hostile political environment and the skepticism of less sympathetic imagined publics. In this new climate, utopian forms of thinking and demanding were understood to be not only naive, but - insofar as they threatened to compromise feminism's already shrinking credibility with more mainstream audiences - even dangerous. The message taken to heart by many feminists in the 198os was that, as Sarah Goodwin laments, "we must, apparently, become skeptical, practical, and realistic, and outgrow utopia" (1990, 4).

In response to these challenges, some feminists scaled back the scope of their political demands, their commitment to revolutionary change giving way to an absorption in struggles to hold the ground already won. As one socialist feminist complained in the mid-1980s, "in the face of the right, we have to pedal hard to stay in the same place, or fight for demands initiated by mainstream feminists" (English et al. 1985, 101). Feminists had once entertained the possibilities of a future beyond gender, family, and work, but in this new environment, political horizons seemed to narrow. Thus, the aspiration to move beyond gender as we know it was supplanted by efforts to secure the recognition and equal treatment of a wider variety of the genders we now inhabit; the project of "smashing the family" and seeking alternatives was largely abandoned in favor of achieving a more inclusive version of the still privatized model; postwork militancy was eclipsed by the defense of the equal right to work balanced with family; and anticapitalist agendas were overshadowed by the urgency of rear-guard actions and more purely defensive efforts to mitigate the impact of structural adjustment policies, including feminist efforts to design less odious approaches to welfare reform.

That there should be no alternative was not only a consequence of neoliberal triumph and Left retreat. It was also a result of the increasing dominance of a model of academic critique that disavowed the element of proposition. Whereas the 1980s witnessed a retreat from feminist utopianism, feminist critique continued to flourish. Indeed, although the prescriptive dimensions and radical political imaginaries of feminist theory may have been eclipsed, they were replaced by a reinvigorated concentration on and tremendous achievements in more purely diagnostic work. Abandoning a more explicit normative project was one way to avoid those forms of critique - totalizing, foundationalist, moralizing, and essentialist - that poststructuralism in the 1980s and 1990s in particular taught us to recognize and interrogate. Although feminists in this period often decried the passive subjects of overly determinist analyses and routinely affirmed the possibility of political agency, there was a tendency to stop short of imagining alternative futures or mapping out paths toward which feminists might commit their collective energies, presumably because they did not wish to risk having such claims about better worlds and prescriptions for change exclude, marginalize, or render invisible those who would nourish different dreams and pursue alternative programs. Thus the disavowal of the project of normative theory was a way to refuse one's implication in the normative claim's impositions and exclusions. There should be no alternative not because this world is the best possible but because, to cite an oft-quoted passage from Foucault, "to imagine another system is to extend our participation in the present system" (1977, 230). Wendy Brown paraphrases the logic of this feminist Left in these terms: "If there is always a governing political truth, at least let us not be the fundamentalists; if every regime is an Occupation, at least let us not be the occupying force" (2005, 101). Jane Bennett's description of Foucault's general strategy - to leave his own normative commitments tacit in order to minimize their moralizing effects (2002, 19) - is what emerged within feminism as perhaps the dominant approach to critique. Rather than develop ways, as Bennett describes an alternative approach, to "render one's affirmative theory more invitational than insistent" (20), affirmation was, and in many ways still is, more often rejected as an integral component of critique and abandoned as a way to avoid the risks of political proposition.[7]

In at least some quarters of the Left, the investment in critique became bound up as well with a set of affective states, including both ressentiment and melancholy, that are more attached to the past and its present than to the possibility of and desire for different futures. Brown has charted some of this territory with analyses of both certain modes of politicized identity constituted by wounded attachments and the specter of what she names Left melancholy. As Brown describes it, identity politics fueled by ressentiment "becomes deeply invested in its own impotence, even while it seeks to assuage the pain of its powerlessness through its vengeful moralizing, through its wide distribution of suffering, through its reproach to power as such" (1995, 70). In this way critique can be misdirected and visions of change limited by the preoccupation with the preservation and vindication of existing identities. As for Left melancholy, in one iteration of this analysis, the Left mourns its own (often idealized) past, its now-superseded forms of organizing and modes of political experience. In some accounts, this mourning can turn into melancholy. As Brown describes the melancholic mode of Left affect, a description that pertains to ressentiment as well, it is characterized by a structure of desire that is more backward-looking than anticipatory; melancholic subjects are more attached to their marginalized Left critique than to the continuing possibility of social change (1999, 26, 21), while the subject of ressentiment becomes more attentive to and invested in his or her injury than in the possibility of its overcoming (1995, 74). These modes of political being, characterized by the affects of loss and sometimes despair, and by a preoccupation with the past and the injuries left in its wake, can harbor their own mode of anti-utopianism. Certain kinds of preoccupations with and attachments to history can overwhelm capacities for creating different futures. 'Whereas the tactical retreat from radical demands and the embrace of a model of critique shorn of its affirmative dimensions echoes, albeit for very different reasons, Popper's warnings about the dangers of utopianism in a hostile world and insistence that there should be no alternative, these brands of Left ressentiment and melancholy resonate with Fukuyama's insistence that, whether we like it or not, there simply is no alternative.

We have by this point collected a number of principled objections, historical obstacles, and affective resistances to utopian thought and practice. Utopia has been criticized in the name of the real and its correlates, reason and realism; it has been disavowed by a model of critique that conceives the normative claim only as a target and not also one of its elements; and it has been overshadowed by a host of temporally inflected affects, from Popper's fear and Fukuyama's nostalgia to modes of Left ressentiment and melancholy that tend, in some instances at least, to deflate desires for different and better futures. Yet, despite the oft-cited declarations of its demise, political utopianism survives, a persistence that suggests there are other arguments to consider about its attractions and effects. To find some responses to the challenges posed by its critics, I will revert to a strategy that I have followed in previous chapters and return to one of the lesser-known alternatives within the Marxist tradition - in this case, the work of Ernst Bloch - for insight and inspiration. With Bloch, we will revisit the practice of utopianism and briefly reconsider its ontological and epistemological warrants. Then drawing on both Bloch and Nietzsche, I wffl explore hope as a mode of temporality, a cognitive and affective relation to time and a way to approach the relationships among historicity, presentism, and futurity What follows is thus a philosophic interlude of sorts, one that begins and ends with Bloch and learns from Nietzsche in the meantime.


Once again Marxism is both an obvious and an unlikely resource - in this case, for a defense of utopianism: obvious because it has so often served as the target of the anti-utopians, including Popper and Fukuyama; unlikely because historically Marxists have so often repudiated the label. Indeed, there is no little irony in the charge of utopianism being leveled at Marxism given that tradition's general hostility to the category. The pejorative use of the term "utopia' already present in the writings of Marx and Engels, was given further sanction by those tendencies invested in establishing Marxism's scientific credentials.[8] But just as there are countertraditions within Marxism that refuse the productivist glorification of work, there are also Marxisms that embrace rather than disavow utopian desire, speculation, and demands. Ernst Bloch is certainly the most notable example, with his sustained effort to, as he describes it, "bring philosophy to hope" (1995, 1: 6).

Bloch's very distinctive style seeks to provoke the political and philosophical imagination as much as the faculty of critical judgment, and the arguments are conducted in the register of affect as much as that of analysis. At its best, his writing is philosophically rich, conceptually innovative, and heuristically evocative. At its worst, it can be frustratingly obscure and self-indulgent.[9] But there are reasons for reading Bloch critically and selectively that extend beyond the vagaries of style: he is at once one of the most inventive of Marxists and a staunch proponent of the Soviet regime, and the contradiction between his affirmation of the creative imagination and his tendencies toward orthodoxy significantly limits the force of many of his claims. Thus, on the one hand, Bloch conceives the world as "unenclosed" (1: 246) and the future as open; on the other hand, he sometimes sets aside his principled objections to teleological guarantees and determinist narratives because of his certainty that Marx has successfully charted our course.[10]

Approached critically and employed selectively, however, Bloch's major work in three volumes, The Principle of Hope, can serve as a rich resource for an alternative conception and assessment of utopian thought and practice - one that is dedicated to the assertion that it is both reasonable and realistic, not to mention an everyday occurrence, to act as if another world were possible. In response to the narrowness of reason, reality, and realism as these categories are deployed in anti-utopian thought, in each case as the measures of utopia's failure, Bloch fashions an alternative ontology and epistemology. If reality encompasses not only what has come to be but also its potential to become other, then utopian thinking, a mode of thought in which reason is allied with the imagination, can count as a particular brand of realism. To draw out the most relevant elements of his thought, I will focus on his categories of the "not-yet-become' the "not-yet-conscious' and, finally, the central category of his opus, "hope." But first, a brief account of Bloch's notion of utopian reason offers a response to the notion of reason that anchors the model of critique that Popper posed.

Utopian Reason

The irrationalism of utopian thinking is perhaps the easiest of the anti-utopian charges to address. Indeed, the refusal of the narrow concept of reason that sustains Popper's critique of utopianism spans a rich history, from the romantic revolt against the Enlightenment to second-wave feminists' critiques of the gendered binary of reason and emotion and more-recent work on the philosophy and science of affect, to name just a few of its highlights. Bloch's contributions to this critique emerge out of long-standing conflicts in Marxism about the scientific and revolutionary adequacy of the tradition's analytical apparatuses. Along with many other subtraditions within Marxism, Bloch stands opposed to those objectivist Marxisms that deem utopian thinking devoid of analytical viability and conceive historical materialism as a scientistic project deprived of vision. In contrast, Bloch considers his project as a reconciliation of two tendencies within Marxism, what he calls the "cold stream' with its dedication to the demystifying powers of empirical analysis and analytical reason, and the "warm stream' with its desire, imagination, and hopefulness. In keeping with Marx's famous eleventh thesis, knowledge practices are evaluated as much for their potential political effects as for their empirical accuracy and critical acuity. Politically effective knowledge requires not contemplative reason, "which takes things as they are and as they stand' but participating reason, "which takes them as they go, and therefore also as they could go better" (Bloch 1995, 1: 4).

More specifically, Bloch's critique of a notion of reason that would exclude utopian thinking turns on two maneuvers. First, he challenges any definition that would deny the intellectual productivity of the imagination. In refusing the sharp division between analytical and creative reason, Bloch troubles as well simple oppositions between discovery and invention and between interpretation and creation. Second, he refuses the opposition between cognition and affect that also informs the conception of reason at the heart of Popper's anti-utopianism. For Bloch, utopian hope - a category we will explore in more detail below - not only requires both reason and imagination, but is characterized by the presence of two different affects, the "warm" affect of enthusiasm and the "cold" affect of sobriety (3: 1368). Hope as a category rejects both the opposition between reason and passion and the neglect of the faculty of imagination upon which Popper secured the irrationality of utopianism.

The Not-Yet-Become

Whether or not utopianism as a type of speculative practice or mode of political aspiration is necessarily unrealistic, as its critics charge, depends on what counts as real. Both Popper and Fukuyama presume a rather attenuated - or, to borrow Bloch's description, "narrowing and diminishing" - notion of reality, one that counts as real only what can be isolated as fact from a process of becoming (1: 197). Bloch's alternative, a process model of ontology, which traces complex processes of historical emergence, is not uncommon in the philosophical tradition; what makes his contribution to the project of ontology's historicization rather less familiar is his insistence that it attend as well to the forward movement of that which has become.[11] The ontology of what Bloch calls the "Not-Yet-Become" affirms reality as a process that not only extends backward but also stretches forward: "The Real is process' the "widely ramified mediation between present, unfinished past, and above all: possible future" (1: 196). According to Bloch's more expansive notion of reality, a notion that lies at the heart of the "Not-Yet-Become" and anchors his defense of utopianism, "anticipating elements are a component of reality itself" (1: 197). In order to grasp the present, Bloch suggests that we must not only understand its emergences from and attachments to the past, but also attempt to grasp its leading edges and open possibilities; everything real has not only a history, but also a horizon.

Bloch challenges not only the conception of the real that informs such objections to utopianism but also what, as realism, might constitute its adequate representation. After all, the assumption that reality is static, that the future will not be different from the present, is hardly realistic. Realism demands the recognition that there is a future born in every present, and that what it will become is not yet decided. Reality is a process in which we can intervene.[12] Bloch's alternative brand of realism considers the present in relationship to both the lingering past that constitutes its denizens and their expected, imagined, desired, feared, dreaded, or longed-for futures. "Real realism' as Bloch describes it, seeks to grasp the present in relationship to both its genealogies and its fronts.

The Not-Yet-Conscious

There is one more assumption underlying both Popper's prescription for utopia's defeat and Fukuyama's proclamation of its demise that Bloch contests: the claim that utopianism is extraordinary enough to be judged incompatible with the pragmatism demanded of ordinary existence and, consequently, tenuous enough that one could imagine it overcome. Indeed, to its critics, utopianism is something anomalous, a rarified pursuit and peculiar indulgence, something distant from the normal routines and practical concerns of everyday life. It is because utopian desire is deemed exotic that Popper can expect not only that it should, but that it could, be conquered, and Fukuyama can claim that it has dried up, its wellsprings exhausted. Here again Bloch offers a counterargument that can better account for the persistence of the capacity for and will to utopia.

The "Not-Yet-Conscious" is the term Bloch uses to designate what enables us to anticipate the Not-Yet-Become as an open possibility. He develops this concept through a comparison, or series of comparisons, to the Freudian conception of the unconscious. The Not-Yet-Conscious is another side of the unconscious, one that taps a reservoir of social and political desire comparable to the individuated desire of the Freudian libido. Whereas the Freudian unconscious is backward-looking, a storehouse of the forgotten and repressed, the Not-Yet-Conscious is oriented toward the future. Bloch complains that whereas "there is nothing new in the Freudian unconscious" (i: 56), the Not-Yet-Conscious is conceived as a source of creativity and site of intellectual productivity (i: 116).

The Not-Yet-Conscious - this capacity for thinking and wanting the future - can be discovered in a wide variety of practices and artifacts. One place where Bloch locates it, although only in incipient form, is in the act of daydreaming. Although many examples of mundane proto-utopianism could be used to illustrate the argument about the ubiquity of utopian desires and imagination, the daydream seems a particularly appropriate instance to consider because, like utopia itself, it is so often doubly discredited as at once wasteful and trivial: a notoriously unproductive use of time - indeed, perhaps the epitome of an "idle indulgence" - and, compared to the night dream, a superficial phenomenon without the same psychological heft and depth. Bloch means to question these judgments, responding to the productivist critique with the suggestion that the daydream night be something to cultivate rather than outgrow, and challenging the psychological critique's assumption that the night dream unlocks doors to our deepest drives and motives, whereas the daydream can be dismissed as pointless and inconsequential. This indictment of the daydream extends beyond its supposed uselessness and triviality. Daydreaming is often treated as an embarrassment, not only for the lack it represents - a lapse in concentration, a waste of time, an interruption of productive activity - but for what it reveals of our immoderate desires to be and have more, an excess of social desire comparable to the libidinal excesses that can fuel the sleeping dream. And it is not just that these desires for undeserved pleasures are seen as irredeemably self-indulgent; these experiments with the social and political imagination are also considered dangerous - risky violations of that strategy of social adjustment by which we allow ourselves to want only what we are likely to have. In this familiar estimation, daydreams are without value, neither sufficiently productive nor functionally reproductive to merit indulgence or warrant exploration.

Here Bloch again poses a rather polemical contrast to the Freudian night dream. Speaking of polemics, it is worth noting that the daydream that emerges from Bloch's analysis is something of an ideal type: he highlights certain tendencies and minimizes others, magnifying those he wants us to notice so that we might learn to recognize something different in a phenomenon that is so familiar and yet, oddly, so philosophically unattended. Bloch invites us to recognize in these wishful escapes and individual fantasies the traces of a rather different kind of desire and mode of speculation, another form of cognitive and affective practice, and he deploys the distinction between the daydream and the night dream as a way in. According to Bloch, each kind of dream "enters and unlocks a very different region" (1: 87); as we will see, both the modes of dreaming and the contents of the dreams tend to differ.

More specifically, there are four points that distinguish daydreams from night dreams. First, unlike a night dream, a daydream is more typically characterized by what Bloch calls a "clear road." In contrast to both hallucinations and night dreams, a daydream may mute or even distort reality, but does not generally alter it wholesale; the basic tenets of the physical and social setting of the action tend to remain more or less familiar. Moreover, daydreams are more subject to the dreamer's guidance than are sleeping dreams; the dreamer "is not abducted or overpowered by his images, they are not independent enough for this" (1: 88). Daydreams are directed constructions; dreamers can make choices about their contents. Second - and closely related to the first point - daydreams are more likely to be characterized by a "preserved ego": "The daydreaming 'I' persists throughout, consciously, privately, envisaging the circumstances and images of a desired, better life" (Bloch 1970, 86). The dreamer is typically recognizable as the self, even if transformed into a self that the dreamer might wish to become. Another sign of the ego's relative strength is that this daytime imagination tends to be less subject to censorship. 'Whereas the dream work serves to disguise the wishes that animate nighttime journeys, such wishes are revealed more clearly as the wellsprings of daydreams. In the process of daydreaming, dreamers are less likely to feel ashamed of their wishes or as inclined to atone for the pleasures found in entertaining them. Indeed, in this arena in which the daydream ego - a "utopistically intensified ego" an ego "with the will to extend itself" (1995, 1: 91) - imagines a better life, desires are given a freer rein; here we allow ourselves the private exploration of our desire for more, with less of the usual self-recrimination and moralizing that can hobble the utopian imagination of different worlds.

Bloch presents the third and fourth characteristics of the daydream under the headings of "world-improving" and "journey to the end." As world-improving exercises, daydreams, or at least those that Bloch wants to recognize and consider, typically involve a social component. That is, the daydreamer is less likely to imagine being alone on a deserted island than to envision herself or himself as part of a social world (1995, 1: 92). Night dreams tend to be intensely private, even solipsistic, with their contents disguised and therefore difficult to communicate. (Here one has only to recall the tedium of listening to a friend struggle to recount the details of a recent night's dream.) The wishful images of daydreams, on the other hand, being both grounded in a recognizable reality and more intersubjectively oriented, are more readily communicated (1: 93-94). (One suspects it would be far more interesting to hear a friend recount a recent daydream, but since daydreams are less subject to self-censorship and in them our desires are so directly exposed and indulged, they are also less likely to be shared.) But daydreams are not just worldly rather than otherworldly, they tend toward world-improvement. As world-improving exercises, daydreams differ from night dreams in that they typically invoke a reformed intersubjective situation, one compatible with the strengthened - stronger, happier, more admired, better loved, and so forth - version of the self that is dreamt. They are forward dreams in that sense, less wholly backward-looking than "forerunners and anticipations" (1: 87). Bloch reminds us to pay attention to the collective element, the world-improving aspect that may be part of even the most narcissistic of these musings. And finally, as journeys to the end, daytime fantasies are more committed to the fulfillment of their wishes. Daydreamers practice imagining the outlines of a situation in which their wishes could be satisfied. Unlike the night dream, then, the day-dream "has a goal and makes progress towards it" (1: 99).

Daydreams in this sense indulge desires for different futures, experiment with ways to fulfill them, and enjoy their imagined satisfaction. Daydreams are not utopias, but in them we might nonetheless catch a glimpse of the same Not-Yet-Conscious that animates utopian thinking: nascent expressions of political reason and imagination inspired by the desire for and will to new and better forms of life, even if only in this limited and - in Bloch's estimation - unambitious form. One reason Bloch's treatment of these dreams is so interesting is that it can help us to appreciate the omnipresence of the speculative social imagination and begin to take charge of its practice. In contrast to people like Fukuyama who conceive of utopianism as a relatively isolated phenomenon that could be subdued, the example of daydreaming suggests that there may be something far more persistent and durable that fuels the imagination of better worlds.

As we have seen, Bloch defends utopia on the very epistemological and ontological grounds the critics use to attack it. Bloch seeks to shift our conception of utopian thought and desire from the merely illusory to something with an ontological grounding in and claim to the real; from an unrealistic pursuit to a practical endeavor with the epistemological authority of a mode of realism; from the most exotic of indulgences to the most mundane of practices. But there is one more challenge that we need to address: the affective obstacles to the type of imagination of and investment in the future on which utopian thinking and action depends.

The Project of Hope

Arguments about what counts as reason, realism, and reality are familiar philosophical territory. The final impediment is more difficult to address. Rather than presume to argue why we should be less fearful, resentful, or melancholic, which would be both pointless and presumptuous, I want to suggest instead only that another approach to time could be encouraged as well. The following discussion explores both the possibilities and the challenges of hope conceived as a project that cultivates and is cultivated by a different affective economy of time. Bloch insists on the importance of fostering the modes of reason, imagination, and desire that contribute to wishful images like daydreams and channeling them into a "polished utopian consciousness" (1995, 1 12). Whereas part of these daydreams might be nothing more than mere escapism, "the other part has hoping at its core" and is, he insists, "teachable" (1: 3). The process of bringing this material to consciousness and developing it leads us to the territory of what Bloch calls conscious-known hope (1: 147)-or hope as a project. I will begin with Bloch's very useful two-part definition of hope and then turn to Nietzsche to develop the understanding further. Although he is not typically approached as a utopian theorist, we will see that Nietzsche offers some important supplements to Bloch's analysis. My readings of each of the two theorists focuses on a pair of concepts: two that are key to Bloch's notion of the concrete utopia, the real-possible and the novum, and two that are central to Nietzsche's proposed cure for ressentiment and nihilism, the eternal return and the overman. My claim is that through an encounter with these dual teachings of Bloch and Nietzsche, we can better understand the paradoxes at the heart of utopian hope and some of the challenges - at once cognitive and affective - of its intellectual and political projects. Hope is, by this measure, not something one either has or does not, but rather something thàt can be fostered and practiced by degreesalthough, as our two instructors suggest, not easily or without risk.

Hope is, for Bloch, an expansive category. But to provide an initial point of entry, he divides it into two analytically separable, though empirically intertwined, elements: hope, as he explains it, is both a cognitive faculty and an emotion. As a cognitive faculty, hope is a mode of thinking through time that works, as noted above, through the media of both imagination and reason, the counterpart of which is memory (1995,1: 12, 112). But hope is also an emotion - or, perhaps more accurately, an affect.[13] Whereas hope as a cognitive capacity is analogous to the faculty of memory, and what we might call "hoping" is a practice comparable to remembering or historicizing, hope as an affect - or what I will call "hopefulness" - can best be grasped, Bloch claims, in contrast to fear and anxiety (1: 12).[14] Hope as a political project requires both a honing of the cognitive capacity and the production of the affect; in both forms, Bloch insists, it is something that can be trained and cultivated. Although Bloch offers a useful starting point with this two-part definition, I find that his discussion of utopian hope functions better as a guide to the cognitive practice of thinking the future than as an insight into the affect. So I am going to impose a division of philosophical labor, relying on Bloch for an analysis of the project of knowing a different and better future and turning to Nietzsche - read here, perhaps somewhat against his inclination, as a theorist of utopian hope - for additional insights into what it might take to want and will such a future.

The greatest challenge facing hope as a cognitive practice is our difficulty thinking beyond the bounds of the past and present. Bloch insists that both modes of temporal reasoning - thinking backward and thinking forward - are necessary for thinking the fullness of any one moment in time. In this sense, Bloch speaks of fusing memory and hope rather than ceding any portion of the temporal frame to the purview of only one or the other. Yet, whereas historicity is a familiar philosophical territory, futurity remains relatively neglected. Hence, part of the project of "learning hope" involves developing the cognitive capacity to think through time in both directions.

Bloch's distinction between abstract and concrete utopias is one of the lessons he offers toward this end. Unlike those who accuse utopians of having their heads in the clouds, the utopian Bloch insists on the importance of keeping our feet firmly on the ground. In order to be both a useful intellectual exercise and a politically effective force, utopian hope must be based in analyses of the present conjuncture and in relation to existing tendencies and credible possibilities. The contrast between abstract and concrete utopias is designed to express precisely this point. Abstract utopias are conjured up without sufficient regard to present trends and conditions that could render them possible, as opposed to impossible, futures.[15] Their contents are fantastic and their function compensatory (Levitas 1997, 67). Concrete utopias are, in contrast, developed in relation to what Bloch calls the "Real-Possible." A concrete utopia, as "a dream which lies in the historical trend itself. . . is' as Bloch explains it, "concerned to deliver the forms and contents which have already developed in the womb of present society" (1995, 2: 623). As utopias "mediated with process" (2: 623), their function is more anticipatory than compensatory (Levitas 1997, 67). In this way, the distinction between abstract and concrete utopias turns on the future's relationship to the past and present. Hoping as an exercise of concrete utopianism does not ignore the present as it has come to be; it is not inattentive to history. On the contrary, it must be cognizant of the historical forces and present potentials that might or might not produce different futures; the present is a fulcrum of latencies and tendencies.[16]

But of course, although utopian hope as a cognitive practice must begin with the present, it cannot end there. The epistemological challenge of utopian thinking stems from the fact that the hopeful subject affirms not only a possible as opposed to an impossible future, but also a radically different future, one that is both grounded in the real-possible and ventures far beyond it. This brings us to the second feature of the concrete utopia: whereas concrete utopianism is grounded in present possibilities, it should not be confused with either idealism or futurism. In terms of what we might think of as the idealisms of the status quo, any number of dreams of change without rupture come to mind: from neoconservativism's ideal of national solidarity anchored by the work, family, and religious values of its citizens, to neoliberalism's postpolitical vision of the world made free and fair by the unhindered reign of market logics or the post-neoliberal vision of a postracial city on the hill that was often attached to the Obama campaign's signiflers of hope and change. Although such dreams of national destiny fulfilled or redemption achieved may tap into utopian longings, they remain for the most part better versions of the present rather than visions of radically different worlds. Similarly, concrete utopian thinking should also be distinguished from futurism. Contrary to that practical "science" of prediction, concrete utopianism in Bloch's estimation is not a slave to the objectively possible (1995, 2 580). The category of the novum is one of a number of his concepts that serves to disrupt mechanistic or predictive models of time's passing in order to attend to the unexpected and transformative "leap into the New" (3: 1373). The novum in this sense affirms "a world of qualitative reversibility, changeability itself," rather than one beholden to "the mechanical Time and Time Again" (1: 286). According to this account, to succumb in thinking the relationship between the present and the future to the seductive simplicity of determinism or the comforts of teleology is to betray the novum. Rather than imagine the future in terms of a predictable evolution from the present, as is the case with both the idealism of the status quo and futurism, concrete utopian thinking must approach it as a more contingent development, with possibilities for significant ruptures and unexpected developments.

The cognitive task of utopian hope is to think these two elements of the concrete utopia together: the commitment both to the real-possible and to the novum, to the new that is familiar insofar as it is sown from the seeds of the present and - as Jameson describes the novum - "the utterly and unexpectedly new, the new which astonishes by its absolute and intrinsic unpredictability" (1971, 126). And herein lies the challenge: to think the relationship between present and future both as tendency and as rupture. The future is at once that which we must map cognitively and that which necessarily exceeds our efforts at representation. Within the narrowly delimited terms of this cognitive field, the gap between the present and the future that the novum opens would seem to signal the failure of thought to be adequate to its object. I will have more to say about this familiar dilemma when we explore different utopian forms and their approaches to what remains a key conundrum of utopian studies. Here I will just note that the power of utopian visions stems in part from the fact that knowing the future on the one hand and wanting it and willing it on the other hand, though certainly linked, are not the same thing and are not necessarily achieved by the same means. More specifically, wanting a different future and making it may not hinge on knowing what it might be. Bloch recognizes that the emotional or affective dimension of utopian hope is the necessary link between utopia as a knowledge project and utopia as a political project. Utopian thought and practice depend on our capacities for affect as much as they do on the exercise of judgmental and creative reason. "The work of this emotion' he insists, "requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong" (1995, 1 3). For hope to be a political force, it must be more than a matter of thinking: it must also be a matter of desire and will. The affective dimension of hope must be added to our understanding of the category if we are to grasp it as a political, rather than a merely epistemological, force.

Before we turn to Nietzsche to develop Bloch's account of the affective project of utopian hope and to grasp the challenges it poses, I want to return once again to Bloch's suggestive description of hope as an affect that he contrasts to fear and anxiety. What seems to be fundamental to fear and anxiety for Bloch, and what distinguishes them from hopefulness as an affective orientation, is their impact on the subject. There is something about fear and anxiety that is diminishing and disempowering: "Indeed, something of the extinction of self announces itself in them" (1995, 1 75). Fear in particular, as Bloch describes it, drawing on Sartre, is a state that "cancels out the person" (3: 1366). Fear tends to be a consuming force, one that once it takes hold can claim precedence over other dimensions or commitments of the person. Building on this insight and extending it to the field of social relations, we can recognize that fear can be similarly disabling, rendering its subjects at once exposed to others through their vulnerability and yet disconnected as a consequence of their protective response. Not surprisingly, fear is an affect with an important and, for our purposes here, illustrative political pedigree and history[17] Thomas Hobbes offers what may be the classic analysis of the political effectiveness of fear, the passion he honors for leading subjects in the state of nature to consent to give up their power and submit to the will of the sovereign. What renders fear such an important affect for Hobbes is that, as Corey Robin points out, the subject of fear is not paralyzed by it; rather, fear functions as a spur to action, specifically to action that would preserve the self (2004, 41). That is, fear serves to clarify and accentuate a subject's commitment to self-preservation. By prompting us to act while diminishing our individual and collective capacities, fear is at once animating and undermining. In Hobbes's account, fear functions - usefully in his view - as a politically disabling affect: the subject fearful of death chooses preservation at the expense of freedom.

Whereas the fearful subject contracts around its will to self- preservation, the hopeful subject - the basic contours of which we can glean from Bloch's account - represents a more open and expansive model of subjectivity Not reduced to defending the self as such, hopefulness enables a more extensive range of connections and purposes. As Bloch describes it, "the emotion of hope goes out of itself, makes people broad instead of confining them" (1995, 1 3). What seems crucial to this contrast between the fearful subject and the hopeful one is that the latter seeks not just to survive but to become more, so that, in Bloch's terms, "self-preservation becomes self-extension" (1: 76).

Although Nietzsche is not typically read as a utopian theorist, and hope is not the category through which he articulates his analyses, his teachings of the eternal return and the overman can be used to develop further this initial figuration of the hopeful subject. In comparing these various models, like the subjects of fear and hope, I am drawing on a philosophical trope that poses arguments in relation to representative types - in this case, subjects characterized in terms of an affective relationship to time - trusting that what might be merely reductive as psychological portraits can prove instructive as figures of political allegory. Nietzsche's model of what I am proposing as a hopeful subject emerges out of a contrast to yet another type, the "man of ressentiment' a subject model through which Nietzsche develops his critical diagnosis of the illnesses to which he thought us to be particularly susceptible.[18]

As with Bloch's conception of hope, Nietzsche describes ressentiment in terms of both an affective state and a cognitive practice, the latter as an overdeveloped memory in relation to the power of forgetting. Nietzsche sees the "man of ressentiment" as lingering over old wounds; his obsession with the past prevents him from the joyful experience of a full present (1967, 127). This subject is characterized as well by a quality of will that is fundamentally reactive, a subject overwhelmed by rancor, regret, and an accusatory stance toward that which emerges from the past and bears its marks. The subject of ressentiment experiences an affective relation to time that results in self-punishment and self-diminution and is unable to affirm what he or she has become.

An obvious problem from the perspective of utopian hope is the quality of this subject's relationship to futurity. Haunted by a past that overwhelms the present, the forces of ressentiment also hollow out the subject's visions of the future, reducing them to either more of the same or visions that could avenge the past. The past looms large, overshadowing the possibility of a new and different future. But the trouble with the affective temporality encapsulated in Nietzsche's portrait is not so much that such a subject looks backward and not forward. Even more important is the subject's relationship to the present, a mode of being in the moment that is disabling, an affective temporality that generates apathy and resignation.

The first step toward a new, more hopeful temporality thus requires that we can first wrestle a viable present from the past, that we can alter our relationship to a past that threatens to render us not the authors of the present but merely its artifacts. The doctrine of the eternal return or recurrence of all things - quite simply, the idea that the past recurs to keep producing the present - was Nietzsche's cure for a poisoned relationship to the past and what it has deposited in the present. The eternal return is posed as a doctrine that would have us believe that the present will return eternally, that "the complex of causes in which I am entangled will recur - it will create me again!" (Nietzsche 1969, 237). The idea is meant to challenge our capacities to affirm the present, to become a being "who wants to have what was and is repeated into all eternity" (Nietzsche 1966, 68). "How well disposed' Nietzsche asks, "would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?" (1974, 274). The task is not to forget the past or to ignore the constitutive force of history - the reality of pain and suffering, for example, must be acknowledged, not denied - but to achieve a relationship to the past that could be more enabling of a different future.

There are two aspects of the teaching of the eternal return that should be noted here. First, it is important to recognize that for Nietzsche, the doctrine is less an epistemological proposition than an ontological intervention. As Kathleen Higgins observes, "It is our acceptance of the doctrine, and not the truth of the doctrine's propositional content, that has practical implications for our lives" (1987, 164). In other words, it is not really a matter of our belief in the eternal return, not really a question of whether we could think the passing of time in this way; it is instead a matter of the affective impact of "this great cultivating idea" (Nietzsche 1968, 44), of what would happen "if this thought gained possession of you" (1974, 274). What would it mean to feel this way, who would you be if you were to experience this orientation to time?

The second point to note is that the affective temporality that Nietzsche prescribes with the eternal return - the particular relationship between historicity and futurity the affective registers of which he struggles to map - hinges on the notion of affirmation that he deploys. The eternal return acknowledges the lingering impact of the past on the present and future, and attempts to disallow a particular mode of that lingering that results in ressentiment and even nihilism. The solution is to "redeem the past" by willing it, or, as Nietzsche describes it, by transforming every "It was" into "'But! willed it thus! So shall I will it'" (1969, 216). But here is the point I want to emphasize: this wifi that wills the past must be understood as a creative will (see 163); the affirmation of the present that the doctrine teaches is not a simple endorsement or ratification of everything the past has produced, but an active intervention into our ways of inhabiting the past. The practice of affirmation is a willful intervention, an active appropriation of its object; in Gilles Deleuze's formulation, affirmation is not acquiescence (1983, 181). To will the past in this way is not to accept or be reconciled with it, but to affirm what we have become through its passing - not as a source of rancor and resignation, but as a basis for making the future. As an antidote to ressentiment, willing the past is an effort to conjure up our power against the determinative force of a history we cannot control and against our animosity toward the present it has produced.[19] Affirmation in this sense requires that we not refuse what we have now become after measuring ourselves against the standard of what we once were or what we wish we had become, but affirm what we are and will it, because it is also the constitutive basis from which we can struggle to become otherwise.

Self-affirmation is the first step toward this new affective temporality that Nietzsche prescribes. If the affirmation of a present no longer under the spell of the resented past, of a life relieved of our reproach, is the first step, the second step concerns that other side of time, the relationship between the present and the future. Nietzsche's prescription for the subject of ressentiment depends not only on the capacity to live in the present and affirm selectively what one has become; this subject of the present, this model of "man' must be at once affirmed and overcome: "Man is a bridge' Nietzsche insists, "not a goal" (1969, 215). Although a future alternative to "man" may be the goal, the present will be the site of its construction; "only a buffoon," Nietzsche declares, "thinks: 'Man can also be jumped over'" (216). The goal is not to preserve the present and what we have become - to settle on the bridge, as it were - but to affirm them so as to enable the subjects who could then will a better future. After all, for Nietzsche, the animating force in life is not the will to self-preservation but the will to power; the goal is not - to switch now to Bloch's terminology - self-preservation but self-extension.

The overman marks yet another subject type. But this figure of "man" overcome is less a vision of a new model of the human subject than it is a way to mark the place of another side of self-overcoming and the subject type who would take it on as a goal. The overman stands in contrast to those "masters of the present" committed to their self-preservation who would "sacrifice the future to themselves" (Nietzsche 1969, 298, 230). The eternal return tests us with the question: could we bear the eternal recurrence of everything that now exists, including ourselves? The figure of the overman challenges us from another point in the temporal frame: could we bear to will our own transformation, are we willing to "create beyond" ourselves (145)? Can we want, and are we willing to create, a new world that would no longer be "our" world, a social form that would not produce subjects like us? "Loving and perishing' Nietzsche notes, "have gone together from eternity" not only as a consequence of the sacrifices that we might make out of love but also in the changes that inevitably occur in the affective relationship to the outside. To affirm oneself as an agent - or, as Nietzsche would have it, to love as a creator - is to be willing to perish too, as the other side of creation is destruction. What would it mean to respond to the prospect of our own "perishing" in a different future, a future in which neither we nor our children - to note that common trope by which we still might imagine a place for ourselves, or people bearing family resemblances to ourselves - would exist, and to respond, moreover, not with fear and anxiety but with joy and hope? Adding this second element threatens to render this Nietzschean alternative temporality paradoxical indeed: on the one hand, we are asked to confront the past in order to carve out a present that we can inhabit and to affirm ourselves as we have become; on the other hand, we are asked to take on the project of creating a different future, and with it our self-transformation. This is what makes Nietzsche's vision so difficult: its mandate to embrace the present and affirm the self and, at the same time, to will their overcoming; its prescription for self-affirmation but not self-preservation or self-aggrandizement. The affective temporality Nietzsche prescribes is one that can create some distance between the present and the sometimes crushing determinative power of the past in order to be strong enough to will a new future, in which the self we affirm would no longer exist.

There are two points I want to draw from this bringing together of Bloch's and Nietzsche's theories of utopian hope. The first lesson of both accounts is that utopian hope hinges at least as much on the quality of our relationship to the past and present as it depends on our orientation to the future. Our tendency to be trapped, both cognitively and affectively, in the past and present is the problem facing hope as a project. But the solution is by no means to ignore or disavow the past and present. Both Bloch's insistence that a concrete utopia must pass through the real-possible and Nietzsche's teaching of the eternal return claim the present as the site of utopian becoming. Bloch thus insists that not only the artifacts of the past but the seeds of the possible future lie in the present, and, for that reason, it cannot - to borrow a Nietzschean formula - "be jumped over" as it is in abstract, fantastic utopias. As the reading of Nietzsche also emphasizes, it is not only a matter of attending cognitively to the present to locate the seeds of possible futures; it is also a matter of affirming the present as the site from which political agents - focused not only on their injuries and armed not only with a critique of the present but fortified as well by the affirmation of their collective power to resist and create - could act collectively to change the world. The faculty of hope is tethered not only cognitively but affectively to the present, although for both theorists, it is a present with tendencies, edges, fronts, and agents.

Second, their dual teachings convey the challenges, at once cognitive and affective, at the heart of the project of utopian hope. But Nietzsche's paradoxical conception seems to pose the greater challenge. Hoping as a cognitive practice may require us to think in terms of both tendency and rupture, to reconcile the future as emerging from and linked to the present, yet radically unrecognizable. But hopefulness as an affective disposition requires a great deal more: to will both (self-)affirmation and (self-)overcoming; to affirm what we have become as the ground from which we can become otherwise. The difficulties of the affective temporality - this particular relationship to the past, present, and future that Nietzsche challenges us to cultivate - should not be underestimated. Loving and perishing may indeed, as Nietzsche claims, always go together, but when what is to be destroyed is the world that makes us possible, the world in which we can exist as legible subjects, the task of creating a new world can be a frightening, even dystopian, prospect. The fear of utopia, as Jameson has astutely captured it, is ultimately bound up with the fear of becoming different: "a thoroughgoing anxiety in the face of everything we stand to lose in the course of so momentous a transformation that - even in the imagination - it can be thought to leave little intact of current passions, habits, practices, and values" (1994, 60).[20] Cultivating utopian hope as a political project of remaking the world is a struggle to become not just able to think a different future but to become willing to become otherwise. "What," Brown asks, "sustains a willingness to risk becoming different kinds of beings, a desire to alter the architecture of the social world from the perspective of being disenfranchised in it, a conviction that the goods of the current order are worth less than the making of a different one?" (2005, 107). The project of hope as conceived here requires the affirmation of what we have become as the constitutive ground from which we can become otherwise. The hopeful subject in this view is less an already constituted subject seeking revenge or restitution, recognition or vindication, than a constitutive subject armed not only with the desire to become stronger but, more provocatively, with the willingness to become different. Thus the project of hope must struggle against both the resentment of what has come to be and the fear of what might replace it, not because the future is settled - on the contrary, it could be a catastrophe - but because a different and better world remains a possibility.


At this point I want to take the analysis in a somewhat different direction, descending from the virtual heights of philosophical speculation to the investigation of actual utopian artifacts - projects of hope, to be sure, but once instantiated in concrete forms, ones that will inevitably constrain, to one degree or another, the utopian impulses and possibilities explored above. Although we could find utopian desires embedded in and enabled by a wide variety of cultural forms and political practices, the discussion that follows will focus on those forms of utopian expression most recognizable to political theory, from the traditional literary and theoretical utopias that offer detailed visions of alternative worlds, to the utopian manifesto, and finally, to the utopian demand. By situating the utopian demand in relationship to these more familiar and legibly utopian genres, we may be better able to grasp its qualifications as a utopian form and recognize more clearly some of its relative advantages or disadvantages.

The comparative analysis will center on the functions of these forms of utopian speculation.[21] Adapting for this discussion the dual focus on a demand as perspective and provocation that we acquired from the analysis of wages for housework, and drawing on the rich utopian studies literature, I single out two generally conceived functions: as a force of negation, utopian forms can promote critical perspectives on and disinvestment in the status quo; as a mode of affirmation, they can function as provocations toward alternatives. One function is to alter our connection to the present, while the other is to shift our relationship to the future; one is productive of estrangement, the other of hope. I will begin with a brief review of each of these functions and then consider how they might be served well or poorly by the various utopian forms.

The first function of a utopian form is the broadly deconstructive one of neutralizing or negating the hold of the present. Part of the specific, though by no means unique, power of utopian forms stems from their capacity for what Darko Suvin (1972) characterizes as estrangement - that is, their ability to render unfamiliar the all-too-recognizable contours of the present configuration of social relations and the experiences and meanings to which we have become habituated.[22] It is an estrangement that can undercut the present social order's ascribed status as a natural artifact, necessary development, and inevitable future. The utopia serves in this sense as a dereifying technique that enables, as Zygmunt Bauman describes it, a relativizing of the present, to mark it as a contingent product of human history and, thereby, to open the possibility of a different future (1976, 13). Not only can the utopia provide an opportunity for this distancing from the present order, but it can also serve to suspend or momentarily disable those epistemologies and habits of thinking that - whether in the form of common sense, practicality, or an appeal to "just the facts" - bind us to the present, keeping us locked within its narrow orbit of social options and political possibilities.[23] Finally the utopian form can also provide moments of disidentification and desubjectivization: depictions of the inhabitants of other worlds that can serve as figurations of future models of being might present us with the means to make ourselves strange as well. In this respect, as Vincent Geoghegan argues, the utopia's "unabashed and flagrant otherness gives it a power which is lacking in other analytical devices" (1987, 2), an otherness that not even the genealogist's use of the historical past can often match. Beyond providing opportunities for dereification and disinvestment that can encourage openness to possibilities of new and different futures, this first broadly deconstructive function of the utopia also serves to incite and enhance our more specifically critical capacities. By estranging us from the engrossing familiarity of the everyday, the utopian form can provide us with a standpoint in the new from which to assess the present critically.[24] In some instances, for example, one might be able to see the presence of social problems and the extent of their impact more clearly by imagining their absence. The utopia's critical force comes not from some simple opposition to the ideological supports of the present, but rather from its efforts to push against at least some forms of ideological containment from within (see Moylan 1986, 18-19).

Whereas the first function of the utopian form is to look backward from a virtual social situation to reorient our perceptions of the actual present, the second is to redirect our attention and energies toward an open future. Estrangement is central to the extractive or neutralizing operations described above; in contrast, hope is crucial to what I will call the provocation function. By providing a vision or glimmer of a better world, particularly one grounded in the real-possible, the utopia can serve to animate political desire, to engage our aspirations to new and more gratifying forms of collectivity. Beyond provoking desire, utopias can also inspire the political imagination, encourage us to stretch that neglected faculty and expand our sense of what might be possible in our social and political relations. In this sense, the utopiato borrow Jean Pfaelzer's formulation - "tempts us as an evocation of political desire" (1990, 199). Finally, as part of this provocation function, utopias can serve as inspirational models; they can help to activate political will, to mobilize and organize movements for social change.

There are two points to add to these initial descriptions. First, it is important to underscore the performative dimensions of these two functions. In terms of the estrangement function, one of the qualities that distinguish the utopian project of critique from other modes is the way that it directs, but does not typically provide, the analysis. In contrast to the more familiar modes of political theory that present explicit evaluations of specific institutions or social regimes, which the reader is then expected to accept or reject, utopian forms tend to invite the reader to engage in the practice of comparative analysis and participate in the process of critical reflection. In this sense, the reader is hailed less as recipient than as participant in the process of critical reflection on the present (see also Fitting 1987, 31). The performative quality of the provocation function is both more pronounced than it is in some other genres, and also more important to recognize in that it allows us to see the utopia in a new light, "to grasp it" - I am drawing here on Jameson's reading of Louis Marin - "as a process, as energeia, enunciation, productivity, and implicitly or explicitly to repudiate that more traditional and conventional view of Utopia as sheer representation, as the 'realized' vision of this or that ideal society or social ideal" (Jameson 1977, 6). Because a utopian alternative is proposed not as an empirical reality but as an intellectual possibility, it might be better able to engage us in the process of the construction and elaboration of that possibility - suggesting, once again, a certain advantage in what some see as the fundamental weakness of this nonempirical mode of theoretical inquiry. According to this reading, the value of a utopian form lies less in its prescription for what to want, imagine, or will than in its insistence that we want, imagine, and will. Miguel Abensour argues that the role of utopias should be understood in terms of the education of desire - not as moral education but, as E. P. Thompson explains Abensour's view, to "teach desire to desire, to desire better, to desire more, and above all to desire in a different way" (Thompson 1976, 97). In this sense, the utopian form's power lies in its capacity to provoke more than prescribe, to animate more than to prefigure. Jameson too affirms utopias less as artifact than as praxis, less for their content than their form; the utopian form, as he describes it, "is not the representation of radical alternatives; it is rather simply the imperative to imagine them" (2001, 231). By this account, a utopia offers not so much the content of a political alternative as an incitement of political will.

The second point I want to emphasize is that, although they are presented here as two separate functions, one deconstructive and the other reconstructive, their simultaneous presence transforms each of them.[25] For example, to the extent that it is coupled with an affirmative dimension, the distancing and critical perspective that may be enabled as part of the estrangement function is not best captured either on the model of Nietzschean forgetting or Marx's ruthless criticism of everything existing. The "no" to the present not only opens up the possibility of a "yes" to a different future, it is altered by its relationship to that "yes"; the affective distancing from the status quo that might be enabled is different when it is paired with an affective attachment either to a potential alternative or to the potential of an alternative. Mann's term "neutralization" might better describe the results of the estrangement function than a term like "critique": the object of critique retains a kind of power and presence, holding the critic in its spell in a way that the object of neutralization does not.[26] As a source of provocation as well as estrangement, the utopian form can potentially animate the desire for the possible, as opposed to simply the vindication or restoration of what has been lost; stimulate the imagination of what might become rather than nostalgia for what once was; and also mobilize on the basis of hope for a different future, rather than only on outrage and resentment over past and present injustices.

To summarize, then, we have explored two general utopian functions. One function is to generate distance from the present; the other is to provoke desire for, imagination of, and movement toward a different future. Again, although we can for expository purposes separate these two functions, it is the combination of estrangement and provocation, critique and vision, negation and affirmation that packs the punch. Although the utopian project is most often associated with traditional literary or philosophical utopias, there are a wide variety of forms - even within the field of political theory - in which utopian aspirations or modes of thinking have found expression.[27] Each form performs these functions differently; each has its own possibilities and limitations as a project of hope. The following analysis begins with the form most commonly associated with the term - namely, the traditional and critical literary and philosophical utopia - then moves to the manifesto and, finally, to the utopian demand. Proceeding as if along a continuum, the discussion ranges from those forms, like the traditional and critical utopias, that place more emphasis on generating critical estrangement, to other forms, like the manifesto and especially the utopian demand, that accentuate the provocation function; and from visions that are more fully elaborated to those that are more partial and fragmentary, mere glimpses of other worlds.

Traditional and Critical Utopias: The Literature of Estrangement

The traditional utopia, the detailed outline of an imagined better society, is the utopian form most closely identified with the term. The category comprises the modern literary utopias - beginning with the text that introduced the term, Thomas More's Utopia - and includes as well most of the canonical utopias in political theory, from the ideal constitutions of the ancient period to the blueprints of the social contract theorists and model communities of the utopian socialists. As we will see, a revival of this form of writing in the 1970s also transformed it; the critical utopia, as this more recent version has been called, together with the shift in reading protocols brought to bear on the genre by a new wave of utopian criticism, moved the focus from blueprint to project.

As a sustained exercise in utopian speculation, this form possesses its own distinctive capacities to spark the imagination of other worlds and enable estrangement from existing ones. Its comprehensive scope, for example, offers certain advantages. Not only can its wealth of detail serve to bring alternative worlds to life and thereby lure a reader out to the edges of the present, but by modeling for and demanding of readers that they think about the social systematically, such a vision of a social totality helps train the sociopolitical imagination. Mapping the interrelationships among economic, social, political, and cultural institutions, and - particularly in the literary utopias - exploring the imbrication of structures and subjects at the level of everyday life, utopias in this form are indeed, as Hilary Rose puts it, "global projects" (1988, 134). But their real force lies in their capacity to produce some critical distance from the present. Consider "On Social Contract" in which Rousseau, insisting that "the limits of the possible in moral matters are less narrow than we think' unfolds for the reader a detailed blueprint of direct democracy (1988, 140). Declaring that a will cannot be represented, that "it is either the same will or it is different; there is no middle ground' Rousseau uses his own brand of utopian absolutism to prod the reader into exploring the contours of a nonrepresentative democracy and then looking at the democratic pretensions of existing political systems from a standpoint that might reveal their inconsistencies and disorders (143). Similarly, in Herland (1992) - her classic utopian novel published in 1915, and set in a society containing only women - Charlotte Perkins Gilman invites her audience to entertain the idea that, as it were, the limits of the possible in gender matters are less narrow than we think. Through this exercise in denaturalization, Gilman raises questions about the basis of gender, inviting her readers to consider that, to cite just one example, women's bodies - their size, shape, and capacities - are socially produced and thus, if conditions were different, could be reconstituted. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (2000) presented an opportunity to examine social, political, and economic life in the Boston of 1887 from the perspective of an alternative future. By imagining their elimination, the text throws into sharper relief the impact of the poverty, exploitation, and class antagonisms that trouble the status of the United States as the land of equality and freedom.[28]

This traditional literary and philosophical utopian form has also been the object of extensive critique. Perhaps the form's most important limitation can be characterized as a tendency to close its visions to judgment and change. To bolster their status as solutions and to keep the critical eye trained on the present, the visions are sometimes shielded from critique and, by the same token, denuded of the forces of change that might render them more heterogeneous and dynamic, but also potentially less perfect alternatives: too often the classic utopias suspend history and eliminate antagonisms. It is this particular form's tendency toward closure that is in large part responsible for the identification of utopia with a state of impossible perfection, an equation that has long served, as Lyman Tower Sargent notes, as a key weapon in the arsenal of anti-utopianism (1994, 9).[29] To the extent that the utopian vision is characterized in terms of apparently seamless cohesion and utter stability - with the range of behaviors presumed to be fully accounted for and completely contained within a system in which contingency is mastered and conflict neutralized - they do tend to resemble the boring, static, and lifeless visions of which so many readers, including Bloch, have complained. For examples of such tendencies, we can return to the texts cited above and note as well the limitations of Gilman's stifling harmony of homogeneous sisterhood and Bellamy's regimented mode of cooperation centered on his model of the industrial army. We might also detect a similar penchant for a rigid systematicity behind Rousseau's infamous additions to the social contract, including the censorship and the civil religion, that serve to contain the potential indeterminacy of the will and the radicalism of the democracy he initially defends; he may be reticent to "give the will fetters for the future" (Rousseau 1988, 99) but is often all too ready to institute checks on its present expressions and prescribe controls on its synchronic development.[30]

This tendency toward closure is precisely what the critical utopia upends. The revival of the literary utopia in the 1970s, together with a renaissance of utopian criticism beginning in the 198os, produced a transformation of both the genre and the interpretative practices brought to bear on its representative texts. In what Moylan labels the critical utopia, one can find a more circumspect and self-reflexive approach to utopian speculation and representation, one that, while allying with the tradition of utopian literature, also stages and attempts to confront some of its limitations (1986, 10).[31] Rather than a depiction of a flawless society cleansed of all potential for disorder, the critical utopia has its own conflicts and failures, including its own resistance to change as once-utopian ideals and practices harden into various forms of orthodoxy, habit, or convention. Critical utopias from this period include Ursula Le Guin's anarchist utopia in the Dispossessed, characterized in the subtitle as an "ambiguous utopia' and the "ambiguous heterotopia" of Samuel Delany's Trouble on Triton. Rather than shielding the vision to protect it as an attractive solution, these authors call attention to its status as a construction and invite critical judgment of its possibilities and limitations. Hilary Rose concludes from her review of 19705 feminist science fiction that "whereas the old dystopia or utopia was complete, fixed and final in its gloomy inexorability or its boring perfection, the new accepts that struggle is continuous and interesting" (1988, 121). Utopia is conceived more as an ongoing process than a solution, more a project than an outcome.[32] As Peter Stiliman puts it, the self-reflexive and critical elements of these utopias serve to open utopian discourse, an opening that "will involve pervasive ambiguity, ambivalence, and uncertainty, recurrent irony and satire, and a willingness to dispute representations of possible futures so as to render closure about the future almost impossible" (2001, 19). By refuting both the equation of utopia with the static and complete blueprint and the reduction of the utopian impulse to the dream of human perfection and the will to social control, the critical utopia broadens the possibilities of utopian expression and expands the understanding of utopian projects.

But there remains a tension at the heart of this, and indeed all utopian forms. The tension is endemic to attempts to straddle the present and future, a predicament of efforts to be in time this way. We encountered a version of this earlier in the relationship between tendency and rupture. On one hand, the traditional and critical utopia seeks to achieve that "unabashed and flagrant otherness" distinctive of the form (Geoghegan 1987, 2). On the other hand, its representation both enables and risks nullifying that effort. Terry Eagleton describes the problem this way: "Since we can speak of what transcends the present only in the language of the present, we risk canceling out our imaginings in the very act of articulating them" (1999, 31). The dilemma stems not only from our limitations in thinking otherwise; the problem is not only strictly epistemological but representational. Thus while the utopian vision need not serve as a blueprint or prove itself achievable to have an impact, it has to be both legible and credible enough to do the work of estrangement and provocation. The tension in this case might be best described as that between otherness and identification, or between a vision of radical difference that can produce estrangement and provocation toward the new and a vision that is recognizable enough to engage and appeal to readers. It is through this dynamic that the relationship between the present and future is negotiated. Jameson calls this part of the dialectic of difference and identity and claims that it accounts for the ambivalences of the utopian text: "for the more surely a given Utopia asserts its radical difference from what currently is, to that very degree it becomes, not merely unrealizable but, what is worse, unimaginable" (2005, xv).

There are at least two ways to respond to this central dilemma of giving form to the utopian project. The first is to accept utopia's inability to think beyond the horizon of the present so as to imagine truly different futures and recognize the value of these failures. Jameson has argued that the critical force of the utopian narrative hinges ultimately on such limitations. The "deepest vocation" of these utopias, he insists, "is to bring home, in local and determinate ways, and with a fullness of concrete detail, our constitutional inability to imagine Utopia itself, and this, not owing to any individual failure of imagination but as the result of the systemic, cultural, and ideological closure of which we are all in one way or another prisoners" (1982, 153). Such lapses of the political imagination can help us recognize our continuing affective attachments to, and ideological complicity with, the status quo. According to this account, what is most disruptive about the encounter with such visions is not the shock of the new but the shock of recognition they can provoke. Jameson's doctrine of failure has the advantage of extending our understanding of utopia's critical function beyond the perspective it can afford on existing institutions and ways of living, to the quality of the political imagination that such institutions and ways of living either enable or disable. These recognitions of failure present the reader with an opportunity to reflect on both the incapacity for and the resistance to utopian imaginings.

If the traditional model of utopia as blueprint has its own tendencies to constrain and domesticate the utopian impulse, a second response to this basic quandary of the utopian form is to recognize the potential benefits of more-partial forms. To develop this point, let us return again to Bloch's distinction between abstract and concrete utopias. Earlier we noted that the distinction hinges on the relationship between present and future: concrete utopias are grounded in present tendencies while also striving to leap beyond them, whereas abstract utopias remain unconnected to the forces and trends in the present - Bloch's "Real- Possible" - that might render them credible rather than merely fictitious. But the abstractness of a utopia is not only a consequence of an inattention to concrete trends. Abstract utopias are further characterized by a level of detail and comprehensiveness that does not allow adequate room for the unexpected development of other as yet incomprehensible and unimaginable possibilities. The very thoroughness and specificity of a vision belies their abstract character; they claim, to borrow Carl Freedman's formulation, "to know too much too soon" (2001, 95).[33] If we agree that the complete outline is less important than "the challenge to the imagination to become immersed in the same open exploration" (Thompson 1976, 97), then when it comes to utopian visions, it may be that less is more. Rather than proposing blueprints, utopias can be powerful as disruptive traces (Wegner 2002, 21), partial visions (Bammer 1991), fractional prefigurations (Freedman 2001, 83), flashes of otherness that can provoke the reader's own reflection and desire. Utopian fragments might require more of us; to borrow José Muñoz's description of what it might take to access queerness as a utopian horizon, "we may indeed need to squint, to strain our vision and force it to see otherwise, beyond the limited vista of the here and now" (2007, 454). This insight - that when it comes to utopian visions, less might be more - will figure in the analyses of the final two utopian forms: the manifesto and the demand.

Utopian Provocations: The Manifesto

With the literary utopia, which - straddling the border between literature and political theory - occupies a minor place in annals of political theory, and the philosophical prescription for the good political order, which enjoys a more central place in the canon, the manifesto is perhaps the third most recognizable utopian form of writing in political theory. Although it shares with the kinds of texts discussed earlier a commitment to utopian speculation, it is a more minimal utopian form and thus functions differently, with its own peculiar tendencies to at once enable and constrain utopian effects.

Earlier we identified two primary utopian functions: to generate estrangement from the present and to provoke the desire for, imagination of, and movement toward a different future. Both the traditional literary and theoretical utopias and the manifesto are capable of producing critical distance, but what the former tend to do more indirectly, by providing a vantage point in a different world from which the reader can critically assess the existing one, the latter does directly, typically presenting to the reader an explicit, if brief and compressed, critique of the present configuration of social relations. But the manifesto is more fundamentally a literature of provocation, a species of utopian writing that challenges its readers to think the future and - more overtly and insistently than the traditional and critical utopias - bring it into being. If all utopian writing is eager to have an effect on the world, the manifesto goes a step further. As an exemplary literature of provocation, the manifesto seeks to bridge the divide between writing and acting. "It is a genre:' Martin Puchner writes, "that is impatient with itself," for "no matter how impassioned and effective, the manifesto will always remain a split second removed from the actual revolution itself" (2006, 43, 22). As a textual practice that struggles to be a political act (see Althusser 1999, 23), its evaluation as a utopian form must take into account the context in which it is circulated and the specific ways it is received, including the kinds of actions committed in its name. "No manifesto," Janet Lyon maintains, "can be understood outside the specific historical conditions of its production and reception" (1991a, 51).

Many of the manifesto's common stylistic conventions and rhetorical practices work to enhance the provocativeness of its claims. The manifesto characteristically speaks from and within the affective register of what Bloch calls militant optimism (1995, i: 199). Rather than being limited to an appeal to reason or interest, the manifesto takes aim at the affects and the imagination; more than a set of claims and positions, it is "an exhortation to a whole way of thinking and being" (Caws 2001, xxvii). It is in this sense also a famously self-assured piece of writing, exemplifying the confidence it wants to instill and signifying the power it seeks to organize. Casting hopes for the future as immediate possibilities, The Communist Manifesto figured revolution "not as a necessity whose time has come but as imminence" (Blanchot 1986, 19). Not surprisingly, the exclamation point is one of its preferred forms of punctuation, one that serves, to borrow Jennifer Brody's characterization, as an amplifier that "pumps up the (visceral) volume" (2008, 150); after urging readers to "get ready" and "get set;' the exclamation point stands in for the pistol shot. Although it thereby "mimics the act;' the exclamation point is also, to return to Puchner's argument noted above, another expression of the form's impatience with itself: it "both emphasizes the urgency to act and postpones the act itself," serving as "one more seam between manifesto and revolution, one more mediation, more of an act than a text, perhaps, but not act enough" (Puchner 2006, 43). By this reading, the proliferation of exclamation points in some manifestoes may be a symptom of this fundamental insufficiency, this inability to leap out of the page and into the world. Even beyond their punctuation preferences, manifestoes are typically demanding both in tone and in content, often delivering their assertions as ultimatums: this is what we want, the texts seem to declare, and nothing less. The declarative sentence is the mainstay of the manifesto; eschewing supporting references and prudent caveats, the manifesto, as Mary Ann Caws observes, "is by nature a loud genre" (2001, xx). Like the literary utopia in this sense, the manifesto aims to seduce its reader, but in the case of the manifesto, this encouragement is less an invitation than a dare. Finally, the extravagant gesture and immoderate demand are staples of the manifesto's interventions into the present in the name of a better future. Indeed, the manifesto "makes an art of excess" (xx), setting itself against the conventions of appropriate discussion and reasonable demands on which the reproduction of the status quo depends. Thus, "to what the dominant order relies on as 'the real; 'the natural; 'the thinkable; the manifesto counters with its own versions of 'the possible; 'the imaginable; 'the necessary'" (Lyon 1991a, i6).

But the manifesto typically sets out to do more than provoke; it also intends to organize. Whereas the traditional utopia focuses on the vision of a better world, the manifesto concentrates on the agents who could bring an alternative into being.[34] Thus the manifesto seeks to fashion its readers into a collective subject; indeed, "this is," as Lyon notes, "precisely the function of the manifesto's characteristic pronoun 'we'" (1991b, 104). The Communist Manifesto is exemplary in this respect, for just as Thomas More founded the genre of the literary utopia, Marx and Engels can be said to have inaugurated the genre of the manifesto; it is not that there are no precursors in each case, but rather that these works became the models on which a generic form was based.[35] Marx and Engels's Manifesto provides both an explicit critique of traditional utopias, specifically those of the utopian socialists, and an alternative mode of utopian expression. In contrast both to the "castles in the air" of the grand planners and social engineers who were, by Marx and Engels's estimation, unable to account for the historical agents who could make them possible, and to the "disciples" of these inventors who, when proletarian activism does materialize on the historical stage, oppose it as inconsistent with the original vision (1992, 36-37), Marx and. Engels sought to generate and organize such a political subject and inspire it to revolutionary action. Yet to prescribe in detail the world that the proletariat was to make, the vision that was to govern its struggles, would have been in effect to disavow the very agency the authors hoped to incite. To recall our earlier discussions of Bloch's categorical distinction between abstract and concrete utopias, it should be noted that Bloch uses Marx's refusal to offer a vision of communism as one example of how to render utopias more concrete. In contrast to abstract utopias, the contents of which are specified in meticulous detail, Marx "teaches the work of the next step and determines little in advance about the 'realm of freedom'" (Bloch 1995, 2 581). The lack of a blueprint should be understood - as it was in Marx's work - as "a keeping open" (2: 622). The novum represents that element or quality that not only belies our efforts at prediction but also resists our desires for full description. In their Manifesto, Marx and Engels sought to call the proletariat as a political agent into existence, to stimulate the organization of its power and to arm it with a sense of its own strength rather than to burden it with a ready-made model.

The 1960s and 1970s produced a renaissance not only of the literary utopia but also of the manifesto, which reemerged as another outlet for and vehicle of the utopian energies of the period.[36] These manifestoes reflected the heady mix of empowerment and joy that accompanied the creation of new political subjects and were designed to expand and extend the mobilization of political desire of which they were a product. For example, US feminists appropriated the manifesto from other quarters of the Left, where it had been cultivated as a traditional masculine form characterized by an aggressive bravura, a way to wage war by other means (see Pearce 1999; Lyon 1991b, 106). The genre was particularly useful to emerging radical and Marxist feminist groups that were both part of and often at odds with the broader Left. Thus, on the one hand, as Lyon notes, "to write a manifesto is to announce one's participation, however discursive, in a history of struggle against oppressive forces" (1991a, 10). On the other hand, as a form characterized by righteous anger and polemical claims, it also served as one of the vehicles through which feminists claimed separate organizations and agendas. In this sense, both the political pedigree of the form and the belligerence of its style were no doubt attractive to feminist groups eager to announce themselves as at once antagonistic subjects within the broader Left and autonomous political forces to be reckoned with.

Feminist manifestoes also aim to constitute feminist subjects. Some manifestoes announce an agent of change already in existence, whereas others seek to call such a collectivity into being. Examples of each can be found in the many organizational manifestoes drafted in the late 196os and early 1970S to announce the formation and promulgate the programs of newly formed feminist groups. One from 1969, "The Feminists: A Political Organization to Annihilate Sex Roles" lays out the history, analysis, organizational structure, and membership requirements of a newly formed radical feminist group in New York (Feminists 1973). A second approach can be found in "The BITCH Manifesto," published in 1970. "BITCH," it begins, "is an organization which does not yet exist." Instead it is imagined as a future coming together of a new kind of woman: "The name," the author insists, "is not an acronym" (Joreen 1973, 50). A similar strategy can be found in The SCUM Manifesto, in which Valerie Solanas implores "civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females," to "overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex" (1991,3). Each of these actors, whether "bitches" or "civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females," are called into being and urged into imagined models of political collectivity - BITCH and SCUM, respectively. In contrast to those manifestoes that declare the formation of a specific group, together with a complete analysis and programmatic vision, these texts - by sparking a vision of what their audiences both were in some sense already and, more importantly, might want to become in the future - attempt to produce that which they seem to presume (see also Lyon 1991a, 28; 1999b, 104). To borrow from Laura Winkiel's description of this performative dimension of The SCUM Manifesto, as a way to convert the reader, manifestoes preach to the converted (1999, 63).

At its best, a manifesto is a provocation of anger and power, one that takes aim at both reason and affect and seeks to inspire at once analysis and action. Given its emphatically practical agenda, however, the manifesto is also the form of utopian writing that inspires the most fear of rabble-rousing, a fear that the feminist authors cited above appear eager to call out. Even if one rejects any facile dismissal of a manifesto's popular reach and passionate politics, one can still appreciate the potential limitations of the genre. At their worst, manifestoes have been known to rely on simplistic, even conspiratorial, analyses and to favor the dramatic, no matter if imprudent, political tactic. A more important limitation from the perspective of this analysis stems from the legacy of revolutionary vanguardism that haunts the form. This can be seen in the manifesto's often well-defined and broadly conceived recipes not for alternatives but for revolutionary events. Although the manifesto undercuts the authority of authors as "grand inventors" who would offer detailed blueprints, the programmatic nature of the manifesto's revolutionary agenda can nonetheless risk closing rather than opening multiple and unexpected paths to the future. The form's traditional association with the imaginary of the revolutionary event also shows up in the tendency to name its political subjects in advance. That is, the manifesto's "we" - what Lyon refers to as "the manifesto's daunting pronoun" - is an effort to control its emergence and delimit its membership (1991a, 175). The future may not be known, but its agent - the political subject that the manifesto seeks to address and constitute - is often prefigured. To recall an earlier criticism levied against the traditional literary and philosophical utopia, the manifesto has traditionally claimed in this regard "to know too much too soon?"[37]

From the Manifesto to the Utopian Demand

The utopian demand could be grasped initially as an offshoot or even subset of the manifesto, one that takes as its focus the manifesto's "practice of enumerating demands" (Lyon 1991b, 102).[38] The discussion that follows will note the demand's resemblances to the species of utopianism that we have already considered, while also trying to underscore the form's specificity. As we move from the traditional utopia to the critical utopia, and then from the manifesto to the utopian demand, the emphasis shifts from estrangement to provocation, and the focus moves from the detailed vision of other worlds to increasingly fragmentary possibilities. One could conclude that the relative incompleteness of the demand as a form is accompanied by a weakening of its utopian effectivity. Certainly the traditional and critical utopias are better equipped than the utopian demand to produce a strong estrangement effect and, in so doing, to generate a rich critical perspective on the present. The constricted range of the utopian demand renders it less able to mount a systematic critique. However, as I argued in the discussions of the other forms - each of which has its own tendencies to at once release but also to constrain and domesticate the utopian impulse - less can sometimes be more. It is precisely the demand's limited scope relative to the other forms that, I want to claim, is the source of some of its advantages.

Situating the utopian demand in relation to other utopian forms reveals continuities that may not otherwise be readily apparent. As an act rather than a text this models' relationship to the more familiar literary genre may be hard to discern; but as we have seen, utopian forms have long been deployed to generate a practical effect, to spur political critique and inspire collective action. The gap between act and text that the manifesto seeks to reduce even further is still more thoroughly breached by the utopian demand. Just as the manifesto "calls for a more complex understanding of the text as an event and of the textuality of the event" (Somigli 2003, 27), the demand should be conceived as both act and text, both an analytic perspective and a political provocation. As we move from the manifesto to the demand, we move from a form of writing intended to inspire a mobilization of political practice to a mode of political engagement in relation to which textual analyses are also generated. The demand, like the manifesto, "cannot be cut off from the public discourse that arises around and as a result of its issuing" (26).

There is, however, a fundamental tension between the terms "utopia" and "demand" that calls for attention. The former points toward the broader social horizon of a future that is always beyond our grasp; the latter directs our attention to the present, to the specific desires that can be named and the definite interests that can be advanced. In this way the paradoxical relationship between tendency and rupture, identification and otherness, and affirming and overcoming that is produced by the utopian form's efforts to negotiate the relationship between present and future also haunts the utopian demand. With the demand, the dynamic is manifest in the conflict between the speculative ideals of utopias and the pragmatism of demands. It is important to acknowledge the ways in which this fusing of utopianism and demanding could have a dampening effect on each of the practices. Harnessing the speculative imagination to a particular and limited political project risks both stifling the utopian impulse and undermining the assertion of practical political claims making. While recognizing the potential limitations of the utopian demand as a form, I want to consider the ways in which each of the practices might also serve to animate and enhance the other. To function optimally, a utopian demand must negotiate the relationship between the terms in a way that preserves as much as possible the integrity of each of these impulses, while holding them together in a constructive tension. At its best, a utopian demand is not just a hobbling together of tendency and rupture in the form of a perfectly transparent and legible demand and an expression of pure utopian otherness. Instead, the terms can be altered by their relationship.

To function adequately as a specifically utopian form such a demand should point toward the possibility of a break, however partial, with the present. It must be capable of cognitively reorienting us far enough out of the present organization of social relations that some kind of critical distance is achieved and the political imagination of a different future is called to work. This brings us to the heart of the differences between utopian and nonutopian demands. While remaining grounded in concrete possibilities, the demand has to be enough of a game changer to be able to provide an expansive perspective. Whereas the demand's propensity to raise eyebrows - the incredulity with which it is sometimes received - might be a liability from the standpoint of a more traditional political calculus, it is fundamental to the utopian form's capacity to animate the possibility of living differently. Here it is important to note that the demands that merit the label "utopian" are necessarily larger in scope than their formulation as policy proposals would initially indicate. None of its supporters presumed that wages for housework would signal the end of either capitalism or patriarchy. But they did hope the reform would bring about a gendered system characterized by a substantially different division of labor and economy of power, one that might give women further resources for their struggles, make possible a different range of choices, and provide discursive tools for new ways of thinking and imagining. Indeed, its proponents saw a society that paid wages for housework as one in which women would have the power to refuse the waged housework that they had fought to win. Similarly, a society in which everyone is granted a basic income would not bring about the end of the capitalist wage relation, but it would entail a significant shift in the experience of work and its place in the lives of individuals. This is a demand that - as in Ben Trott's description of a "directional demand" - instead of being fully recuperated within the economy of the same, "looks for a way out." As demands rather than comprehensive visions, they suggest a direction rather than name a destination (Trott 2007, 15). In this case, by challenging productivist values, by contesting the notion that waged work is the proper source of and title to the means of consumption, the demand for basic income points in the direction of the possibility of a life no longer subordinate to work, thus opening new theoretical vistas and terrains of struggle. The point is that these utopian demands can serve to generate political effects that exceed the specific reform.

So to function effectively as a utopia, the demand must constitute a radical and potentially far-reaching change, generate critical distance, and stimulate the political imagination. To function optimally as a demand, a utopian demand should be recognizable as a possibility grounded in actually existing tendencies. This is not to say that it should be "realistic" - at least in the sense that the term is deployed in the typical anti-utopian lament about such demands. Rather, the point is that it should be concrete rather than abstract. As a demand, the utopian vision to which it is linked should be recognizable as a credible politics grounded in a plausible analysis of current trends, as opposed to a rant, an exercise in political escapism, or an expression of merely wishful thinking. A utopian demand should be capable of producing an estrangement effect and substantial change, while also registering as a credible call with immediate appeal; it must be both strange and familiar, grounded in the present and gesturing toward the future, evoking simultaneously that "nowness and newness" that has been ascribed to the manifesto (Caws 2001).

Perhaps the relationship between utopia and demand is at its most paradoxical when approached not in terms of the relation between tendency and rupture - or, in Bloch's version, between the "Real-Possible" and the novum - but in relation to the Nietzschean relation between affirming and overcoming. In some sense, the temporality of the various forms narrows as we move from the traditional utopia to the manifesto and then to the demand. Despite the generative potential of the traditional utopia's more detailed vision of a revolutionary alternative, as the map of a distant future, it can also, to borrow Baudrillard's observation, have "the effect of stifling the current situation, of exorcizing immediate subversion, of diluting (in the technical sense of the term) explosive reactions in a long term solution" (1975, 162). If the time of the manifesto is always "now" (Lyon 1991a, 206), the time of the demand is "right now?'

With utopian demands, the immediate goal is not deferred as it is in the more comprehensive utopias. To make a demand is to affirm the present desires of existing subjects: this is what we want now. At the same time, the utopian demand also points in the direction of a different future and the possibility of desires and subjects yet to come. The paradox of the utopian demand is that it is at once a goal and a bridge; it seeks an end that is open-ended, one that could have a transformative effect greater than a minor policy reform. Thus, the small measures of freedom from work that the demands for basic income and shorter hours might enable could also make possible the material and imaginative resources to live differently.

As we move from the manifesto to the demand, we also continue in the direction of more fragmentary forms, both in terms of the vision offered and the agents it seeks to provoke. Like the critical utopia, the demand aims to open us cognitively and affectively to the future rather than to attach us to a ready-made vision. But whereas the manifesto remains "a document of an ideology" (Caws 2001, xix), the demand's commitments are far less extensive and systematic. The demands for basic income and shorter hours offer neither full-blown critiques of the work society or maps of a postwork alternative; they prescribe neither a vision of a revolutionary alternative nor a call for revolution, serving rather to enlist participants in the practice of inventing broader visions and methods of change.

Like the manifesto, the focus of the demand is less on the work of building a preconceived alternative than on provoking the agents who might make a different future. Indeed, the demand takes the manifesto's concentration on activating agents - rather than on providing what Marx and Engels criticized as "fantastic pictures of future society" (1992, 36) - even further. The utopian demand does not so much express the interests or desires of an already existing subject as it serves as one of the many mechanisms of its formation. It is less the argument or rhetoric of the demand than the act of demanding that constitutes a political subject. The potential effects of the collective practice of demanding were something that the proponents of wages for housework understood well. A demand emerges from that tradition as simultaneously expressive and performative. Selma James's mode of presentation of the demand for wages for housework is suggestive in this respect. As she explains it, the benefits of the movement for wages depends on the practices of organizing, demanding, and winning, each of which is measured by degrees: it is not when, but only "to the degree that" women organize a struggle for wages, "to the degree that" they demand a wage, "to the degree that" they win a wage, that various benefits will accrue (1976, 27-28). What is important in these formulas is less the goal that one may win or lose than the process of demanding, organizing, winning; what is crucial here is the degree to which the subjects themselves are transformed.39 In this way, the utopian demand can be seen as something more than a demand for a specific goal or set of goals, Rather, according to this account, it is a process of constituting a new subject with the desires for and the power to make further demands. Perhaps this is what James meant when she referred to the demand for wages for housework as "the perspective of winning" (27): to struggle for wages - or, to expand the insight, for basic income or shorter hours - to want them and to assert that they are one's due, is to participate in the practice of collective hope and engage thereby in a constituting act.

If the legacy of revolutionary vanguardism does indeed haunt the manifesto in its tendency to name the "we," as in Marx and Engels's proletariat or the housewives of the wages for housework movement, the demand is not something that can presume to evoke a revolutionary subject or name it in advance of its formation. Just as Marx and Engels once insisted, contra the utopian socialists, that communism was not something to prescribe but something to invent, something that would emerge in the process of political struggle, the demand could be said to allow its advocates to emerge in the collective practice of demanding. If prescriptions of alternatives close down possibilities, so too does the naming of agents. The demand is neither the "document of an ideology" nor the platform of a party; it is difficult to predict who might coalesce around the demand, what kind of political subject might emerge in relation to its advocacy Who might be called to the project remains an open question.

Just as demands are more directional - to recall Trott's term - than prefigurative of a postwork society, the antiwork political subject that might coalesce around the demand or set of demands is less likely to be a vanguard than a coalition. In this sense, these demands might best be characterized not only as directional, but also as "articulatable" - that is, capable of being linked together. Although utopian demands do not present a systematic program or vision - they are not a means to some preconfigured end - broader political visions can be enabled as different constituencies find points of common interest. As demands manage to intersect and groups link together, broader social visions can emerge, not as a prerequisite of these articulations but as their product. To draw on Ernesto Laclau's description, demands might be "put together to create some kind of more feasible social imaginary:' not a perfect state of emancipation and ultimate fulfillment, but more-global visions constructed around particularized items (Zournazi 2003, 123-24). Demands are more dispersed than ideologies or platforms, a partiality that does not lend itself to the traditional model of a vanguard or even a party. So the political result is not imagined as a series of local Bellamy Clubs, dedicated as they were to disseminating that author's broader vision, but as an assemblage of political desires and imaginaries out of which alternatives might be constructed.


The cultivation of utopian hope, as both Bloch and Nietzsche would have it, is an ambitious project: it is no easy thing to be in time this way, straddling past, present, and future, nurturing cognitive and affective investments in both the lived present as it has emerged from the past and its possible futures. Certainly each of the utopian forms we have considered has its own particular limitations. Indeed, the fundamental paradox of this most paradoxical of practices may be that by instantiating it in a form, utopian hope is at once brought to life and diminished. Perhaps the most that we can expect is that hopefulness will still haunt these forms as an enticement or a beckoning to want and to think otherwise.

This chapter began with a rehearsal of the argument against the utopianism of the demands for basic income and shorter hours. Having arrived at the end of the discussion, we may want to at least entertain a different conclusion: perhaps in light of utopia's functions and in comparison to other utopian forms - not to mention by the standard of the hopeful subject gleaned from Bloch and Nietzsche - the problem with these utopian demands is not that they are too utopian but that they are not utopian enough, that their futures are not as richly imagined and their critiques not as fully developed as those of the other utopian forms. Although this may be the case, as I have also tried to suggest, the incompleteness of the utopian demand does not necessarily diminish its force; more-fragmentary forms might better preserve utopia as process and project rather than end or goal, and might open utopia's critiques and visions to multiple insights and directions.

By allowing rather than evading the charge of utopianism that may be levied against such demands, we can begin to recognize their potential as tools of utopian thinking and practice. Conceiving such demands as modes of utopian expression that function to elicit utopian praxis - that is, as tools that can promote distancing from and critical thinking about the present and imaginative speculation about and movement toward a possible future - allows us to reconsider the nature and function of political demands by highlighting their performative effects: how they serve to produce the modes of critical consciousness that they seem merely to presuppose, to elicit the political desires that they appear simply to reflect, and to mobilize and organize the collective agency of which they might seem to be only an artifact. That is, perhaps under the rubric of this more expansive conception of utopianism, we can better appreciate the potential efficacy of such demands. Rather than hopelessly naive or merely impractical, these demands - including the ones for shorter hours or basic income - are potentially effective mechanisms by which to advance critical thinking, inspire political imagination, and incite collective action. Perhaps the greater danger is not that we might want too much, but that we do not want enough. By this reckoning, feminists should consider becoming not less but more demanding.


1. Popper's book was written in Britain during the fight against European fascism and, as he notes, "with the expectation that Marxism would become a major problem." In the preface to a later edition, Popper recognizes that the critique of Marxism is "liable to stand out as the main point of the book" (1950, vii).

2. It bears noting that Popper's and Fukuyama's critiques of utopian dreams of and struggles for a better world are presented neither under the auspices of a crude materialism (both recognize the potential power of ideas in political affairs) nor in the name of realpolitik (as reason and progress, not interest and power, are their guiding ideals). As we will see, their problems with this kind of idealism lie elsewhere.

3. Interestingly, both Popper and Fukuyama center their arguments on historicism, with Hegel and Marx prominently represented. But although such evolutionary theories of historical development appear as the enemy of liberalism in Popper's accountinsisting as they do that social orders come and go, and predicting the advent of new formsthey play a central role in Fukuyama's defense of liberalism. The historicism of Hegel and Marx so maligned by Popper is celebrated once it is clear, to Fukuyama at least, that liberalism and not communism is the telos of this historical drama.

4. Despite Popper's "firm conviction" that the "irrational emphasis on emotion and passion leads ultimately to what I can only describe as crime' he later admits that his own style could be accurately described as "emotional" (1950, 419, vii).

5. The difference between Popper's and Fukuyama's treatments of the passions is reminiscent of the way they are viewed by two theorists who bookend another epoch in the history of liberal political theory: Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill. In contrast to Hobbes, Mill insists that the greater danger to both individual and society lies not in an overabundance of passions and desires, but in their attenuation (1986, 70).

6. On the production of feminist literary utopias, see the overviews in H. Rose (1988) and Russ (1981).

7. It seems to me that this retreat from the affirmative or propositional dimension of critical work sits uneasily in relation to political theory's disciplinary history and canonical commitments to a model of critique that encompasses both deconstructive and reconstructive moments.

8. This distrust of utopianism persists within some parts of the Marxist tradition. Even among those who would affirm utopianism, some do so in only the most cautious manner. Thus, for example, Immanuel Wallerstein begins his defense of utopian thinking with a standard critique of utopias as by definition "dreams of a heaven that could never exist on earth" and, hence, "breeders of illusions and therefore, inevitably, of disillusions" (1998, 1). His analysis and prescriptions are based, in contrast, on "sober, rational, and realistic" analysis, for which he feels the need to invent a new term, "utopistics' one presumably untainted by the history of the old term (i). Because he is, like Popper, concerned about utopias leading us astray from reason narrowly understood, in speaking out on behalf of utopianism, Wallerstein thus advocates only the most domesticated notion of it, shorn of much of its passion and imagination.

9. One of Bloch's favorite moves is to turn interrogatives into nouns (including, for example, the "Where To" and "What For"), thereby transforming an instrumental piece of familiar grammar into an enigmatic concept with a denser but still open-ended reality. Sometimes this works to open doors to new ways of thinking; at other times, the rhetoric falls flat.

10. On this point, see Tom Moylan's useful analysis of Bloch's thought and politics (1997, 108-18).

11. Bloch's version of the process ontology of being is notable for its animating force. In contrast to those who would identify a particular human drive as the transhistorical motor of history, humans are, according to Bloch, subject to a multiplicity of drives, none of which are timeless or fixed (1995, 1:50). Hunger figures in Bloch's analysis as a kind of minimal ontological force, the "oil in the lamp of history" (i: 69) that animates the "no" to deprivation and the "yes" to a better life (i: 75). As a thoroughly historically variable, hunger "interacts as socially developed and guided need with the other social, and therefore historically varying needs which it underlies and with which, for this very reason, it is transformed and causes transformation" (i: 69). Although he presents hunger as a version or expression of the drive to self-preservation, it is not reducible to other, more familiar notions of self-preservation. In Bloch's version, "selfpreservation, human preservation in no way seeks the conservation of that which has already been drawn and allotted to the self?' Rather, self-preservation as hunger is what urges humans forward to extend themselves and become more.

12. To borrow a formulation from Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche, "the world is neither true nor real but living" (Deleuze 1983, 184).

13. "Affect" is, I would argue, a more fitting description than "emotion" for this dimension of Bloch's notion of hope. Not only is emotion, as the capturing and rendering legible of affect (Massumi 1995, 88), too narrow a formulation but affectunderstood as a capacity for affecting and being affected (Massumi quoted in Zournazi 2003, 212)Can better register the expansive quality of hope that I want to emphasize.

14. Rather than describe hope as the opposite of fear and anxiety, as Bloch tends to do, I want to pose hopefulness as their complement or, better yet, their antidote.

15. The model of the abstract utopia, Bloch complains, "has discredited utopias for centuries, both in pragmatic political terms and in all other expressions of what is desirable; just as if every utopia were an abstract one" (1995,1: 145).

16. We can also use Bloch's distinction between abstract and Concrete utopias to draw further distinctions between hoping on the one hand and both wishfulness and nostalgia on the other hand. As was the case with the contrast between abstract and concrete utopias, these distinctions turn on the quality of the relationship to the present. Wishing or wishfulness can be described as an abstract mode of thinking the future, and nostalgia as an abstract memory practice. Although one is focused forward and the other looks backward, wishfulness and nostalgia are equally abstract in the Blochian sense: one seeks escape from the present in a fantastic future, the other in an idealized past.

17. For an analysis of the political fortunes of fear in US politics, see Corey Robin's account of the history of what he calls "fear American style" (2004).

18. Although I will focus on ressentiment, in light of our earlier mention of Left melancholy, it is worth noting here that there are family resemblances between the affective temporalities of the subject of ressentiment and that of melancholy. Freud describes the melancholic subjectand, in at least these terms, the mourner as wellas displaying a "profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love," as well as an "inhibition of activity" (1957, 244).

19. In this sense, the distinction between affirmation as acceptance and willful affirmation in Nietzsche's thought resembles Bloch's distijiction between automatic optimism and militant optimism. Characterized by "a will which refuses to be outvoted by anything that has already become" (1995, i: 147), militant optimism is opposed to optimism of either the naive or teleological variety; it is as impatient with wishfulness as it is with nostalgia. Militant or "founded optimism" is thus opposed both to the "cheap credulity" of automatic optimism and to the automatic belief in progress (i: 199-200).

20. This is the kind of dislocation and disintegration of self that Julian West, Bellamy's character in Looking Backward, experiences after waking to a new social world more than a hundred years in the future: "moments:' as Julian describes it, "when my personal identity seems an open question" (2000, 113). However, Bellamy also does much to assure the reader that the experience was otherwise ontologically assimilable, with a portrayal of a future that was in many respects soothingly familiar.

21. This attention to the function of utopias, beyond their form and content, is common in the utopian studies literature. For two good examples, see Levitas (1990) and McKenna (2001).

22. Suvin's (1972, 374) elaboration of this estrangement function of science fiction and the literary utopia draws on the work of Viktor Shldovsky and Bertolt Brecht.

23. As Vincent Geoghegan formulates this function of the classic utopian form, it "interrogates the present, piercing through existing societies' defensive mechanismscommon sense, realism, positivism and scientism" (1987, z).

24. Foregrounding the utopian form's capacity for critical distancing, Edward Bellamy titled his famous 1888 novel about a utopian future set in the year 2000 not Looking Forward, but Looking Backward (2000).

25. The word play in More's original term "utopia"which could sound like outopos or eutopos, meaning either no place or good placemight also be read in relation to the distinctive coupling of negation and affirmation that characterizes the form.

26. For a reading of Marin on neutralization, see Jameson (1977).

27. This was one of Bloch's fundamental claims, that the traditional conception of utopia, as a blueprint of an alternative society, is too restrictive, that utopian expressions assume a multiplicity of forms: "To limit the utopian to the Thomas More variety, or simply to orientate it in that direction, would be like trying to reduce electricity to the amber from which it gets its Greek name and in which it was first noticed" (1995, i: is).

28. To emphasize the importance of these utopian texts as critical perspectives is not to deny their effects as provocations. Bellamy's Looking Backward inspired the formation of more than i6o Bellamy Clubs committed to achieving the utopian vision in the United States, along with a political party and publications (see Miller 2000, vvi).

29. Sally Kitch's (2000) critique of feminist utopianism is a recent instance of this kind of argument, one that reduces utopianism to blueprints of perfect worlds and then dismisses it tout court.

30. These ways of managing a utopia's content can be matched by comparable formal techniques of closure that render the reader passive. The too easy refutation by Socrates in the early sections of the Republic of Thrasymachus's objections to the founding assumptions of the utopian state, a silencing that left Socrates with a rather more manageable set of interlocutors, stands as an early example of this technique. Bellamy deploys a comparable maneuver. In the penultimate chapter of Looking Backward (2000), not only do the protagonist and the daughter of his host declare their love for one another, but we discover that the daughter, Edith, who happens to share the name of the fiancée he left behind in the past, is in fact the great-granddaughter of his lost love. Thus loss is recoded by means of a synthesis that neatly preserves that which it surpasses, as Edith the idle socialite is replaced by her more worthy descendant, Edith the incarnation of productive domesticity. Peter Fitting describes this as an example of a method that reinscribes the reader within the dominant social order "which represents itself, like the traditional work of art, as whole and meaningful, without flaws or contradiction" (1987, 33). As Angelika Bammer argues: "To the extent that utopias insist on closure, both on the level of narrative structure and in their representation of a world complete unto itself, their transformative potential is undermined by the apparatus of their self-containment" (1991, 18).

31. Sargent defines the critical utopia as "a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as better than contemporary society but with difficult problems that the described society may or may not be able to solve and which takes a critical view of the utopian genre" (1994,9). Moylan describes it in these terms: "A central concern in the critical utopia is the awareness of the limitations of the utopian tradition, so that these texts reject utopia as blueprint while preserving it as dream. Furthermore, the novels dwell on the conflict between the originary world and the utopian society opposed to it so that the process of social change is more directly articulated. Finally, the novels focus on the continuing presence of difference and imperfection within utopian society itself and thus render more recognizable and dynamic alternatives" (1986, 10n). Phillip Wegner argues that one can also find these elements in earlier examples of utopian fiction (2002, 99-100).

32. For another approach to the critical utopia, see Erin McKenna's "process-model" of utopia (2001,3).

33. By this estimation, perhaps, as Jameson observes, "an 'achieved' Utopiaa full representationis a contradiction in terms" (1982, 157).

34. It should be noted that Althusser makes a distinction that I do not between utopian and nonutopian manifestoes, in terms of whether there is a disjunction between the agency of the text and that of the political subject it addresses. The Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels 1992) is, by his account, nonutopian (1999, 26-27; see also Puchner 2006, 30).

35. On the foundational role of More's Utopia, see Wegner (2007, 116-17); on the Manifesto, see Puchner (2006, 11-12).

36. Manifestoes come in a variety of forms; they are directed to different audiences, intervene in different fields of inquiry and endeavor, and are committed to different goals. There are artistic manifestoes, political manifestoes, organizational manifestoes, and theoretical manifestoes, which ask us to create, organize, and think differently. Radical feminist manifestoes from the 197oS, for example, range from the more narrowly programmaticlike those that are essentially organizational charters and solicitations for membershipto the more immediately practical that function essentially as party platforms with specific demands for modest reform, and the more visionary and more properly utopian that call for a more dramatic rupture with the status quo. Not all include a utopian element; to count as utopian, they must focus not only on what they are against but gesture towardannounce, describe, or urge us in the direction ofan alternative.

37. There are, of course, exceptions to this iconic model of the manifesto. Donna Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" (1985), for example, appropriates the manifesto form while rejecting some of its classic rhetorical tendencies and political inclinations. Just as authors of the critical utopias of the 19705 demonstrated an awareness of the limitations of the traditional literary utopia, Haraway's contribution could be described as a critical manifesto.

38. Although the demands that are sometimes included in manifestoes can be the repositories of the texts' utopian content, they are also often treated as an opportunity for authors to assert their practical credentials and prove their seriousness of purpose. In such cases, the list can serve to assure readers that there is indeed a viable method to the madness, in the guise of a clear means to a concrete end. In contrast, the utopian demand absorbs the utopian content into the demand itself.

39. Some proponents of another demandfor reparations for slaveryemphasize in similar terms the demand's potential to provoke political agency. As Randall Robinson puts it, "the issue here is not whether or not we can, or wifi, win reparations. The issue rather is whether we will fight for reparations, because we have decided for ourselves that they are our due" (2000, 206).



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Submitted by Spikymike on July 19, 2013

I rushed through the philosophical preparatory pargagraphs of this text to consider the practical conclusions in favour of what Weeks refers to as a programme of 'utopian demands'.

I am only aware of one political group in the UK that seems to have taken up this idea and it's justifications wholesale and which is seeking to apply these in it's practice (see the oddly named 'Working Against Work working group' text at ). It seems to me that for all the refreshing re-appearance of an 'anti-work' politics here as against the 'business as usual' politics of the traditional Keynesian influenced and/or marxist productivist left, that there is as much of a ''legacy of revolutionary vanguardism'' in this programme of demands as in the usual leftist 'manifesto'. Substituting 'a guaranteed income for all' or 'a reduction in the working week' (to what?) for 'full employment' or 'nationalise the banks' or whatever, doesn't really move the approach fundamentally from the more familiar trotskyist programme of 'transitional demands' (indeed the planc crossed referenced jacobinmag article calls them exactly this). In it's understanding of the role of revolutionary minorities or working class agency it remains consistently within a leftist framwork and isn't even very novel as it harks back to the same impractical approach of the ''Right To Work or the Fight to Live' days of the early 60's and 70's claimants movement that operated in quite different and more favourable economic circumstances. As an extension of ideas by the 'Wages for Housework' groups (criticised elswhere on libcom ) it is unlikely to be any more successful in it's claimed purpose beyond some temporary propaganda value amongst those already radicalised. Linking 'utopian' to 'demands' is already flawed and situates it as a strategic approach well outside and against the 'direct action' political framework advocated by other libertarian communists.

This is not to put people off reading this and other of Kathi Weeks texts posted on this site which are of interest but have so far engendered few responses.