Between the dizzying technologies of the First World, and social disintegrations of the Third, does the concept of utopia still possess a meaning? Fredric Jameson on the resistant negations of fantasy-based systemic critique.
THE POLITICS OF UTOPIA
Utopia would seem to offer the spectacle of one of those rare phenomena whose concept is indistinguishable from its reality, whose ontology coincides with its representation. Does this peculiar entity still have a social function? If it no longer does so, then perhaps the explanation lies in that extraordinary historical dissociation into two distinct worlds which characterizes globalization today. In one of these worlds, the disintegration of the social is so absolute—misery, poverty, unemployment, starvation, squalor, violence and death—that the intricately elaborated social schemes of utopian thinkers become as frivolous as they are irrelevant. In the other, unparalleled wealth, computerized production, scientific and medical discoveries unimaginable a century ago as well as an endless variety of commercial and cultural pleasures, seem to have rendered utopian fantasy and speculation as boring and antiquated as pre-technological narratives of space flight.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same authors:
Badiou and the French Tradition
How to locate an energizing philosophy of activity and production, and of fidelity to past revolutionary ruptures, in relation to the line that runs from Sartre, Althusser and Lacan to Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze? A critical interrogation of the return to philosophical tradition, from metaphysics to ethics, in Badiou’s major systematic works.
Recent films of the Soviet-trained director Aleksei Gherman read as enigmatic late-modern outcrops—or meteorites from an unimaginable future—resistant to the all-pervasive aestheticization processes of consumer capitalism.
On Re-reading Life and Fate
Against conventional comparisons with War and Peace, Fredric Jameson offers a path-breaking formal reading of Vassily Grossman’s great fiction of the Battle of Stalingrad. The war against Hitler as crucible for a new collectivity, in which freedom finds itself, or as grounds of social—and thus narrative—totality.
The Aesthetics of Singularity
Can postmodernity still define the present age, or is the concept now obsolescent? In a major retrospect and re-evaluation, Fredric Jameson reflects on the cultural logic of globalization and its temporalities. Art, cuisine and financial derivatives as one-off ideas and events; global politics and counter-possibilities as land-grabs, or occupied space.
Reflections on the occasion of the Rome Lecture and on its themes. Dialectic of the inside and the outside, the surprising role of non-knowledge in subjectivity—and new technologies and labour processes as experiential grounds for transformation in class consciousness.
In Soviet Arcadia
Fredric Jameson on Francis Spufford, Red Plenty. A documentary-cum-fable reconstructs the lost future of the Khrushchev era.
Fredric Jameson on Uwe Tellkamp, Der Turm. Reunified Germany’s best-seller from the former DDR, and the way time was lived in it.
Regieoper, or Eurotrash?
Opera has been globalized, and big-bang productions of Wagner’s music-dramas now outnumber those of all other works. How to frame an aesthetics for this cultural-historical phenomenon—allegorical ideogram strings, or Gesamtkunstwerk as vaudeville?
Marx and Montage
The author of Archaeologies of the Future unearths fragments from ‘ideological antiquity’ in Alexander Kluge’s recent film on Capital. Encounters with Eisenstein’s unrealized equivalent, seeking a cinematic transposition of the commodity fetish.
Fredric Jameson on Christoph Henning, Philosophie nach Marx. Austerities of a German rejection of social philosophy, in the name of the Moor.