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In the Place of Utopia

Affect and Transformative Ideas

Warwick Tie

Considerable socio-political change has re-configured the discursive space once occupied by ‘ utopia’. Within the cultures of late capitalism and the organisational matrices of bio-political administration, that space is no longer animated by images of idealised states that are yet to come, or by a sense of simple failure in the production of those same states. Rather, it is overdetermined by a condition of differentiation in the representation of reality. The origins of that differentiation of representation appear to lie deep within the modernist project. In the Place of Utopia explores how that condition of representation might be animated anew by the discursive circuits through which modernity has come to operate, so as to enliven the ability of transformative ideas to lever change from within a range of organic crises current to the world system: the financialisation of global capitalism; the subsumption of worker subjectivities to the logic of capital; the broadening of the metabolic rift through industrial-capitalism. Central to this animation of transformative ideas is the relationship between language and the body.
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3 Beyond the discursive space of utopia

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3Beyond the discursive space of utopia

The prospects for the discursive space of utopia turn upon the socio-historical context(s) in which that space exists. Only in the process of undertaking an exploration of context might the historical significance of movements within the signifier of utopia become evident. Reflecting the continuing ascendency within contemporary social thought of spatiality as an organising metaphor for this idea of context, Stavrakakis has framed this particular issue as being a question about the “space beyond spatiality”;1 about, here, the space beyond the spatiality implied by the figure of utopia. What is, his question asks, the socio-political space – ‘the political’ – in respect of which the discursive space of utopia now operates? The question produces a task of identifying the particular coordinates of socio-historical context which have the potential to propel the normative impulse of utopia beyond, but without nullifying, the important categorising role of the specific interpretations being put forward of that same context. How might the closed-cycle of a snake biting its own tail transform into that of an open-ended spiral? To this end, returning to Lenin, how might the normative impulse of the question ‘what is to be done?’ grow beyond, without necessarily denying, Lenin’s own diagnosis of the Russian political situation in which he lived (that the gulf between a stunted union movement and the individualistic impotence of anarchist activism validated a dictatorship of the proletariat)?

A particular challenge immediately arises in respect of developing insights...

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