Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice
Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan
Beyond Utopia? The Knowledge Society and the Third Way
← 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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