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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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10 The sublime object(s) of utopia


10The sublime object(s) of utopia

The question of ‘what is to be done?’ animates not only the critical analysis of organic crises but also the matter of political organisation. Indeed, it is with regard to the matter of political organisation that the decoupling of the normative drive from particularistic analyses of those crises, obtains its clearest public expression. What might it mean for there to exist an organisation of action whose political purposes only ever fully emerge in conjunction with that action? How might such an organisation prevent itself from lapsing either into the convenience of pragmatic justification (doing whatever it takes to bring about an end whose form always remains partially undisclosed) or the proto-religious certainty of idealist conviction (commanded by some or other image of the Social Good)? Moreover, this matter of political organisation animates anew the question of how the discursive space once occupied by utopia might now produce transformative ideas.

Badiou’s text, The Communist Hypothesis, gestures towards the kind of political organisation that we might associate with knowledge developed through the interpretive practices of radical desublimation and the impress of constitutive anxiety. The suggestions which the text makes on political administration share two points, in particular, with that kind of knowledge production. To begin, political organisation turns upon practices of interpretation rather than the formalisation of operational directives. To this end, the form of transformative organisation with which Badiou aligns himself – communism – is a process, being “better understood as an...

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