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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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The Party of Utopia: Utopian Fiction and the Politics of Readership 1880–1900


← 144 | 145 → MATTHEW BEAUMONT

In the concluding paragraph of “Utopianism after the End of Utopia” in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, an account of an exhibition of contemporary conceptual art, Fredric Jameson makes a tantalizing reference to what he calls the “Party of Utopia”:

Yet in our time, where the claims of the officially political seem extraordinarily enfeebled and where the taking of older kinds of political positions seems to inspire widespread embarrassment, it should also be noted that one finds everywhere today – not least among artists and writers – something like an unacknowledged “party of Utopia”: an underground party whose numbers are difficult to determine, whose program remains unannounced and perhaps even unformulated, whose existence is unknown to the citizenry at large and to the authorities, but whose numbers seem to recognize one another by means of secret Masonic signals (180).

“One even has the feeling,” he concludes with a mischievous wink, “that some of the present exhibitors may be among its adherents” (180).

I have the feeling that a substantial number of academics associated with the constantly expanding field of utopian studies are not merely adherents to, or fellow travelers of, the Party of Utopia, so much as paid-up members, if not committed full-timers. Jameson himself explicitly dedicates Archaeologies of the Future to a handful of comrades in the Party – scholars and writers Peter Fitting, Darko Suvin, Susan Willis, and Kim Stanley Robinson – who collectively constitute what might...

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