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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Introduction: Exploring Utopia



In the current global political and cultural climate, it has been argued that utopian alternatives or anticipations of any sort are to be rejected as either useless dreaming or as blueprints for societies susceptible to authoritarian control. However, given the understanding of Utopia put forth by Ernst Bloch, Fredric Jameson, and others, these dark times of closure, exploitation, privilege, and violence call out more than ever for Utopia’s transformative energy as a necessary stimulus to sociopolitical transformation.

The Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies was established at the University of Limerick in 2003 to pursue research on utopianism. The Centre’s research agenda is based on the premise that sociopolitical values, policies, and practices can be creatively and productively understood through the intervention of a utopian problematic – or set of analytical categories – that can trace those critical yet hopeful impulses that seek to bring about a better world (however diverse, debated, conflicted, or contested such tendencies may be in the cultures out of which they arise). These utopian impulses can be identified and studied in their dual move of a negation of the present moment and a figuration of a better reality that can be articulated through a variety of texts and social practices. Such anticipatory expressions and experiences can be most usefully read as modes of future-bearing production that generate a pedagogical and political sense of possibilities. Utopianism, consequently, is best understood as a process of social dreaming that...

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