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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


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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Immanence and the Utopian Impulse. On Philippe Jaccottet’s Readings of Æ and Robert Musil


← 182 | 183 → MICHAEL G. KELLY

Prior to the business of exploring is that of locating. To posit a utopian impulse both suggests Utopia’s origins in an inner space and segregates the utopian from the volitional, the ordered, the reflective. The utopian is othered within the subject via this originary gesture. It comes to represent a heteronomy, one of the order of a force of nature working through the subject placed within the flux of the given. The subject is engineered into that eminently modern position of being spoken through. This is an understandable move given Utopia’s historical vulnerability to rationalistic hubris. That history equally serves to underline, however, Utopia’s abiding issue with the quality and jurisdiction of human consciousness. In particular, that issue gravitates around the attempts of consciousness to confront and negotiate its own limits.

Thus in Das Prinzip Hoffnung, for example, Ernst Bloch associates what he calls the utopian function with a particular consciousness of the subject in respect of the forward glance. A tempering reflexivity is necessary in the face of the persistent waywardness of the subject abandoned to its desires, its unbounded ability to desire. This is for Bloch a qualitative issue: “Pure wishful thinking has discredited utopias for centuries, both in pragmatic political terms and in all other expressions of what is desirable; just as if every utopia were an abstract one [… The “immature utopian function”] is easily led astray, without contact with the real forward tendency into what is better...

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