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New Left Review 26, March-April 2004


Perry Anderson responds to Fredric Jameson’s ‘Politics of Utopia’ in NLR 25. Lessons for the glacial political present from Bloch and Adorno, Fourier and Lao Tse—and conditions for the renewal of utopian energies.

PERRY ANDERSON

THE RIVER OF TIME

Utopia has always been one of Fredric Jameson’s defining concerns. No intellectual thread has been more continuous in his work, from Marxism and Form through to A Singular Modernity, whose final words read: ‘What we really need is a wholesale displacement of the thematics of modernity by the desire called Utopia. We need to combine a Poundian mission to identify Utopian tendencies with a Benjaminian geography of their sources and a gauging of their pressure at what are now multiple sea levels. Ontologies of the present demand archaeologies of the future, not forecasts of the past’. [1] A Singular Modernity, London–New York 2002, p. 215. For earlier reflections, see Marxism and Form, Princeton 1971, pp. 110–59; The Political Unconscious, Ithaca 1981, pp. 281–99; The Ideologies of Theory, Minneapolis 1988, vol. ii, pp. 75–101; Signatures of the Visible, New York–London 1990, pp. 9–34; Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham–London 1991, pp. 154–80. Yet though present everywhere, this is a concern that for the first time comes into full focus in the essay published in nlr 25. ‘The Politics of Utopia’ offers his most comprehensive meditation to date on a subject central to his work.

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