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Utopian Effects, Dystopian Pleasures

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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 19: Urban Planning/Utopian Dreaming: Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh Today

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On the day when contemporary society, at present so sick, has become properly aware that only architecture and city planning can provide the exact prescription for its ills, then the time will have come for the great machine to be put in motion and begin its functions […] The house that can be built for modern man (and the city too), a magnificently disciplined machine, can bring back the liberty of the individual – at present crushed out of existence – to each and every member of society.

(Le Corbusier 1967: 143)

The critique of the utopian view of modernism, its imperialistic vision, and the manner in which it has been implemented in our cities and landscapes, has caused many to retreat from any discussion of utopianism. Indeed, the critique of the modernist version of daily life is well deserved as can be seen in the use of Le Corbusier’s “Radiant City” as a model for many public housing projects, or Howard’s “Garden City” as played out in the needless tracks of suburbs. There is an appropriately critical perspective in the recognition that the imposition of one “man’s” utopian vision on a culture results in destructive imperialism. It is understandable that the design fields have largely retreated from an explicitly utopian project, seeking instead to “fit into” what is perceived as the mainstream culture.

(Schneekloth 1998: 1)

Since the earliest utopias, the link between town planning – the arrangement of dwellings and work-places, malls, and public...

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