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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice

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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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Paradise Lost: The Destruction of Utopia in The Beach

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← 216 | 217 → PAULA MURPHY

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world […],

Sing heavenly muse.

—John Milton, Paradise Lost

In his introduction to The Principle of Hope, Ernst Bloch states that “thinking means venturing beyond. […] Real venturing beyond knows and activates the tendency which is inherent in history and which proceeds dialectically. Primarily, everyone lives in the future, because they strive, past things only come later, and as yet genuine present is almost never there at all” (4). This impetus to seek out a better future is the driving force behind any utopia, whether ancient or modern; but it is also a feature of the theories of two prominent poststructuralists, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan. On the surface, the incorporation of these writers into a discussion on Utopia may appear problematic, as Lacan has often been described as nihilistic and dystopian. Equally, Derrida’s relentless deconstruction of signification and his critique of its inherent hierarchies seem to leave little room for a utopia of any sort. However, like Bloch, Derrida argues that humanity is unavoidably directed towards the future: “this question arrives, if it arrives, it questions with regard to what will come in the future-to-come. Turned toward the future, going toward it, it also comes from it, proceeds from [provident de] the future” (xix). In this extract from Specters of Marx, Derrida is referring to the question...

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