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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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Beyond Utopia? The Knowledge Society and the Third Way

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← 324 | 325 → JENNY ANDERSSON

The Third Way, as the central ideological project of contemporary social democracy – particularly its British strain – raises objections to the very term “Utopia.”1 The idea of Utopia defies the claim of the Third Wayers: namely, that “new” social democracy stands for a “new politics” defined precisely by its location beyond ideology and beyond utopian thinking. Indeed the term “utopia” is pejorative, for it denotes impossibility and not desirability. I argue in this essay that this Third Way position is related to the conceptualization, in British political discourse, of “new times” defined by economic and technological forces and the spread of knowledge and information. The logic of change in this new context is defined by the warp speed of creativity and by the logic of the silicon revolution, whereby the speed of information transmission constantly multiplies. In such a knowledge-based and individualized economic and social order, politics can no longer be about endpoints because these would soon be overtaken by the pace of progress. The former Downing Street advisor and Demos director, Geoff Mulgan, says:

I mean I think that the idea that you describe an endpoint towards which you get, which was the popular idea of utopias in the seventeenth century, nineteenth century ← 325 | 326 → and so on, is simply incompatible with any society where knowledge plays a big role, because the nature of knowledge is to be dynamic, continually changing, and transformative, so there can’t possibly be a vision of...

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