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Weak Messianism

Essays in Everyday Utopianism


Michael Gardiner

This volume explores the connection between two phenomena usually thought to be utterly incongruous, even antithetical: ‘utopia’ and ‘everyday life’. It presents a series of essays, written over the last twenty years, which rethink the nature and prospects of utopianism in a world that has grown increasingly sceptical as to the possibility of systemic socio-political transformation in a positive direction. Through critical interdisciplinary engagements with a wide variety of thinkers ranging from Mikhail Bakhtin to Henri Lefebvre and beyond, many of whom are often read as anti-utopian figures, the essays argue that it is possible to locate utopian promises buried deep within the embodied rituals, practices and symbolic forms associated with everyday existence, in a manner that reveals the essential openness of the present day to momentous future change.


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Every author hopes for a good editor, but I have been fortunate indeed in having the present volume edited by Tom Moylan, whose good humour, unerring critical eye, and penchant for exacting detail have made the pro- duction of this book an exceedingly pleasurable experience. Thanks also to Ruth Levitas for her incisive comments on a draft of the introduction, to the editor at Peter Lang, Christabel Scaife, for her remarkable ef ficiency and good cheer, and to Jack Fennell for his scrupulous proofreading. And of course I would like to thank my wife Rita for her inspiration, many stimulating intellectual conversations, and extensive help with editing and compiling the index for this book. The following authorizations to reprint are noted with acknowledge- ment and thanks to the editors and publishers of the original venues: Chapter 1: ‘Bakhtin’s Carnival: Utopia as Critique’ first published in Utopian Studies, 3(2), 1992, 21–49. Chapter 2: ‘ “A Very Understandable Horror of Dialectics”: Bakhtin and Merleau-Ponty ‘, first published as ‘ “A Very Understandable Horror of Dialectics”: Bakhtin and Marxist Phenomenology’, in Craig Brandist and Galin Tihanov (eds), Materialising Bakhtin: The Bakhtin Circle and Social Theory. Basingstoke and New York: Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, 2000, 119–41, reprinted with permission from Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter 3: ‘Utopia and Everyday Life in French Social Thought’, first pub- lished in Utopian Studies, 6(2), 1995, 90–123. Chapter 4: ‘A Postmodern Utopia? Heller and Fehér’s Critique of Messianic Marxism’, first published in Utopian Studies, 8(1)...

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