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Utopian Effects, Dystopian Pleasures

Series:

Peter Fitting

Edited By Brian Greenspan

This collection brings together for the first time Peter Fitting’s writings about the utopian impulse as expressed in science fiction, fantasy, cinema, architecture, and cultural theory. These wide-ranging essays trace the constant reconsideration of the utopian project itself over the past four decades, from its mid-twentieth century period of decline to its revival in counter-cultural science fiction of the 1960s and ‘70s, its second decline with the «dystopian turn» in film, and the rise of feminist pessimism in the 1980s.

These pages reveal what popular utopian, dystopian, and science-fiction narratives tell us about today’s most pressing political issues, including gender equity, education reform, technological change, capitalist excess, state-sanctioned violence, and the challenges of effecting lasting political change. Through analyses of various popular genres and media, the author demonstrates how utopian visions written from particular political perspectives transcend narrowly partisan concerns to stoke our collective desire for another world and a more adequate human future, teaching us how to become the citizens and subjects that a utopian society demands.

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CHAPTER 6: Fredric Jameson and Anti-Anti-Utopianism

Extract

In the following I want to give an account of Fredric Jameson’s theory of Utopia as presented in Archaeologies of the Future.1 Like Thomas More’s Utopia, this is actually two books, the second written before the first, since the latter is made up of eleven previously published essays on science fiction and Utopia, while the first part, aptly entitled “The Desire Called Utopia,” was written as an introduction to those essays.2 In such an account, of course, I can only begin to address Jameson’s theories and will thus limit myself to the 250 pages of the Introduction, “The Desire Called Utopia,” calling attention to a few of the highlights of this dense but rewarding text, while leaving the specific readings of the second part and the question of science fiction aside.

As many of his readers know, Jameson has had a long involvement with science fiction and Utopia – stretching back at least to 1971 and Marxism and Form, where he proclaimed the importance and timeliness of the utopian impulse:

For where in the older society […] Utopian thought represented a diversion of revolutionary energy into idle wish-fulfilments and imaginary satisfactions, in our own time the very nature of the utopian concept has undergone a dialectical reversal. Now it is practical thinking which everywhere represents a capitulation to the system itself, and stands as a testimony to the power of that system to transform even its adversaries into its own mirror image. The Utopian idea, on the contrary,...

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