Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Fw: Back to utopia

Expand Messages
  • Amy Harlib
    aharlib@earthlink.net ... http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/11/20/back_to_utopia/
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 6, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      aharlib@...

      > Terrific little essay!

      http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/11/20/back_to_utopia/
      >
      > Back to utopia
      >
      > Can the antidote to today's neoliberal triumphalism be found in the pages
      > of far-out science fiction?
      >
      > By Joshua Glenn | November 20, 2005
      >
      >
      > IN 1888, when Massachusetts newspaperman Edward Bellamy published his
      > science fiction novel ''Looking Backward," set in a Boston of the year
      > 2000, it sold half a million copies. Never mind the futuristic inventions
      > (electric lighting, credit cards) and visionary city planning; what
      > readers responded to was the transformation of a Gilded Age city of labor
      > strikes and social unrest into a socialist utopia (Bellamy called it
      > ''nationalist") of full employment and material abundance.
      >
      > By 1890 there were 162 reformist Bellamy Clubs around the country, with a
      > membership that included public figures like the influential novelist,
      > editor, and critic William Dean Howells; and from 1891-96, the
      > Bellamy-inspired Nationalist Party helped propel the Populist Movement.
      > The Bellamyites fervently believed, to paraphrase the slogan of today's
      > anti-globalization movement, that another world was possible.
      >
      > But during the Cold War - thanks to Stalinism and the success of such
      > dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's ''Brave New World" and George Orwell's
      > ''Nineteen Eighty-Four" - all radical programs promising social
      > transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened liberals
      > at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the theologian and
      > public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the
      > utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."
      >
      > Niebuhr and other influential anti-utopians of mid-century - Isaiah
      > Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Karl Popper - had a point. From Plato's ''Republic"
      > to Thomas More's 1517 traveler's tale ''Utopia" (the title of which became
      > a generic term), to the idealistic communism of Rousseau and other pre-
      > and post-French Revolution thinkers, to Bellamy's ''Looking Backward"
      > itself, utopian narratives have often shared a naive and unseemly
      > eagerness to force square pegs into round holes via thought control and
      > coercion. By the end of the 20th century, most utopian projects did look
      > proto-totalitarian.
      >
      > In recent years, however, certain eminent contrarians - most notably
      > Fredric Jameson, author of the seminal ''Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural
      > Logic of Late Capitalism" (1991) and Russell Jacoby, author most recently
      > of ''The End of Utopia" (1999) and ''Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought
      > for an Anti-Utopian Age" (2005)-have lamented the wholesale abandonment of
      > such utopian ideas of the left as the abolition of property, the triumph
      > of solidarity, and the end of racism and sexism.
      >
      > The question, for thinkers like these, is how to revive the spirit of
      > utopia - the current enfeeblement of which, Jameson claims, ''saps our
      > political options and tends to leave us all in the helpless position of
      > passive accomplices and impotent handwringers" - without repeating the
      > errors of what Jacoby has dubbed ''blueprint utopianism," that is, a
      > tendency to map out utopian society in minute detail. How to avoid, as
      > Jameson puts it, effectively ''colonizing the future"?
      >
      > Is the thought of a noncapitalist utopia even possible after Stalinism,
      > after decades of anticommunist polemic on the part of brilliant and
      > morally engaged intellectuals? Or are we all convinced, in a politically
      > paralyzing way, that Margaret Thatcher had it right when she crowed that
      > ''there is no alternative" to free-market capitalism?
      >
      > Borrowing Sartre's slogan, coined after the Soviet invasion of Hungary,
      > about being neither communist nor anticommunist but ''anti-anticommunist,"
      > Jameson suggests we give ''anti-anti-utopianism" a try. In his latest
      > book, ''Archaeologies of the Future," just published by Verso, he invites
      > us to explore an overlooked canon of anti-anti-utopian narratives that
      > some, to echo Niebuhr, might find embarrassingly adolescent: offbeat
      > science fiction novels of the 1960s and '70s.
      >
      > Jameson, a professor of comparative literature at Duke, isn't talking
      > about ''Star Trek" novelizations. Because of the Cold War emphasis on
      > dystopias, Cold War writers like Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and
      > Samuel R. Delany had to find radical new ways to express their
      > inexpressible hopes about the future, claims Jameson. At this moment of
      > neoliberal triumphalism, he suggests, we should take these writers
      > seriously - even if their ideas are packaged inside lurid paperbacks.
      >
      > In Dick's uncanny novels, the author demands of us that we decide for
      > ourselves what's real and what isn't. ''Martian Time-Slip" (1964), for
      > example, is partly told from the perspective of a 10-year-old
      > schizophrenic colonist on Mars, where civilization is devolving into
      > ''gubbish." And ''The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (1965) is a
      > psychedelic odyssey of hallucinations-within-hallucinations from which no
      > reader emerges unscathed.
      >
      > Delany, meanwhile, is best known for ''Trouble on Triton" (1976), a
      > self-consciously post-structuralist novel that depicts a future where
      > neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is the norm. Le Guin, author of
      > a fantasy series for children, ''The Earthsea Trilogy," explores Taoist,
      > anarchist, and feminist themes in novels like ''The Left Hand of Darkness"
      > (1969) and ''The Dispossessed" (1974). Fans of Dick, Delany, and their ilk
      > warn neophytes not to read too many of their books too quickly: Doing so,
      > as this reader can attest, tends to result in pronounced feelings of
      > irreality, paranoia, and angst.
      >
      > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson characterizes utopian narratives (which he
      > classifies as a subgenre of science fiction) as being, at the level of
      > content, less a vision of a truly different world than a
      > situation-specific response to a concrete historical dilemma: the
      > immiseration of the working class during the later 19th century, in
      > Bellamy's case. Such content is ''vacuous," he sniffs, and of interest
      > primarily to antiquarians.
      >
      > The ability of utopian narratives in particular, and science fiction in
      > general, to break the paralyzing spell of the quotidian has less to do
      > with its content than with its form, he argues persuasively. (Buck
      > Rogers-type science fiction in the mode of ''extrapolation and mere
      > anticipation of all kinds of technological marvels," as Jameson puts it,
      > is far less effective at doing so.) It requires a tremendous effort to
      > imagine a daily life that is politically, economically, socially, and
      > psychologically truly different from our own. And this effort, Jameson
      > writes, warps the structure of science fiction. As a result, he claims,
      > even Dick's amphetamine-fuelled potboilers are as productively alienating
      > as the plays of Brecht and Beckett.
      >
      > But isn't it perverse to describe novels quite so alienating as utopian?
      > The title character of Dick's ''Palmer Eldritch," for example, is an
      > industrialist-turned-evil demiurge who brings to mankind a ''negative
      > trinity" of ''alienation, blurred reality, and despair" in the form of
      > Chew-Z, a drug that inducts users into a hallucinatory semireality from
      > which they can never finally escape. Le Guin's ''The Dispossessed,"
      > meanwhile, was written as a pointed critique of typical utopian
      > narratives: It's set on Annares, a planet whose hippie-like inhabitants
      > value voluntary cooperation, local control, and mutual tolerance - but who
      > have preserved their grooviness through dogmatic conformism and an
      > entrenched bureaucracy that stifles innovation. Le Guin's protagonist
      > abandons Annares for a nearby world, one that is superior in important
      > respects because its inhabitants value the free market; later editions of
      > the book are subtitled ''An Ambiguous Utopia."
      >
      > Delany, finally, gave ''Triton" (set on a Neptunian colony where no one
      > goes hungry and everyone is sexually confused) the subtitle ''An Ambiguous
      > Heterotopia," to signal his own critique not only of utopian narratives
      > but of Le Guin's vestigial nostalgia for pastoral communes.
      >
      > Asked in a recent interview why the science fiction novels that he calls
      > utopian portray future societies not even remotely like the
      > cloud-cuckoo-land the term suggests, Jameson explained that the problem
      > confronting Cold War science fiction writers was how to describe utopia
      > ''negatively," in terms of what it won't be like. ''There is, in effect, a
      > ban on graven images, meaning you can't represent the future in a
      > realistic way," he said. Anti-anti-utopian writing ''has to be about
      > freeing the imagination from the present," Jameson continued, ''rather
      > than trying to offer impoverished pictures of what life in the future's
      > going to be."
      >
      > Dystopias aren't the only example of ''negative" utopianism, Jameson
      > points out in ''Archaeologies." The rise to popularity in the mid-1960s
      > and early '70s of disaster novels - about atomic warfare, meteors hitting
      > the Earth, environmental collapse, and so forth - ought to be interpreted
      > as evidence of a collective desire to start over from scratch, he writes.
      > He points to books like Dick's ''Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After
      > the Bomb" (1965), a pastoral set in a post-apocalyptic Berkeley; Le Guin's
      > ''The Lathe of Heaven" (1971), about an overpopulated Portland, Ore., made
      > livable by a plague; and John Brunner's ''The Sheep Look Up" (1972), about
      > an Earth whose air is unbreathable.
      >
      > These books are more utopian, in a way, than Bellamy-style idylls, Jameson
      > claims, because the latter offer false hope that ameliorative reforms
      > might transform society. ''What utopian thought wants to make us aware of
      > is the need for complete systemic change, change in the totality of social
      > relations, and not just an improvement in bourgeois culture," he said.
      > ''If we want a [bourgeois idyll], we can go to Celebration, Fla."
      >
      > If discussing a future society that can't be represented realistically is
      > complicated and off-putting, that's because ''it's a new form of
      > thinking," Jameson insisted. ''It's a new dimension of the exercise of the
      > imagination."
      >
      > Jameson, who's been writing about Dick, Le Guin, Delany, Brunner, and
      > others in the pages of scholarly journals like Science Fiction Studies for
      > 30 years, is reticent when it comes to the question of what makes a great
      > anti-anti-utopian narrative. ''The talent or the greatness of science
      > fiction writers," he said, ''lies in what individual solutions they have
      > for a formal problem - the ban on graven images - that cannot be resolved.
      > There's no universal recipe." But when it comes to the power of science
      > fiction to spring us from what he claims is our current state of political
      > paralysis, Jameson is enthusiastic. ''It's only when people come to
      > realize that there is no alternative," he said, ''that they react against
      > it, at least in their imaginations, and try to think of alternatives."
      >
      > Can reading science fiction, I asked, help us decide between various
      > utopian alternatives - urban vs. pastoral, statist vs. anarchistic? No,
      > replied Jameson, insisting there are ''utopian elements" in each of these.
      > What science fiction does afford us, he said, ''is not a synthesis of
      > these elements but a process where the imagination begins to question
      > itself, to move back and forth among the possibilities."
      >
      > What contemporary science fiction author most inspires this ideal process?
      > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson suggests it might be a former doctoral
      > student of his, Kim Stanley Robinson, who wrote his dissertation on Philip
      > K. Dick and whose popular trilogy, ''Red Mars" (1992), ''Green Mars"
      > (1993), and ''Blue Mars" (1995), explores the political, economic, and
      > ecological crises that ensue when 21st-century colonists from Earth begin
      > terraforming Mars. Instead of asking the reader to decide on any one of
      > the colonists' competing utopian ideologies, Jameson said, Robinson ''goes
      > back and forth between these various visions, [allowing us to see] it's
      > not a matter of choosing between them but of using them to destabilize our
      > own existence, our own social life at present."
      >
      > In the final analysis, Jameson writes in ''Archaeologies," the demanding
      > exercise of holding incompatible visions in mind is what ''gives utopia
      > its savor and its bitter freshness, when the thought of utopias is still
      > possible."
      >
      >
      > Joshua Glenn writes the Examined Life column for Ideas. E-mail
      > jglenn@....
    • Aleus Mundi
      Hey, Amy! Good to have you back in the forum. ... -- The Transmundial rules all [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 10, 2005
      • 0 Attachment
        Hey, Amy! Good to have you back in the forum.

        On 12/6/05, Amy Harlib <aharlib@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > aharlib@...
        >
        > > Terrific little essay!
        >
        > http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/11/20/back_to_utopia/
        > >
        > > Back to utopia
        > >
        > > Can the antidote to today's neoliberal triumphalism be found in the
        > pages
        > > of far-out science fiction?
        > >
        > > By Joshua Glenn | November 20, 2005
        > >
        > >
        > > IN 1888, when Massachusetts newspaperman Edward Bellamy published his
        > > science fiction novel ''Looking Backward," set in a Boston of the year
        > > 2000, it sold half a million copies. Never mind the futuristic
        > inventions
        > > (electric lighting, credit cards) and visionary city planning; what
        > > readers responded to was the transformation of a Gilded Age city of
        > labor
        > > strikes and social unrest into a socialist utopia (Bellamy called it
        > > ''nationalist") of full employment and material abundance.
        > >
        > > By 1890 there were 162 reformist Bellamy Clubs around the country, with
        > a
        > > membership that included public figures like the influential novelist,
        > > editor, and critic William Dean Howells; and from 1891-96, the
        > > Bellamy-inspired Nationalist Party helped propel the Populist Movement.
        > > The Bellamyites fervently believed, to paraphrase the slogan of today's
        > > anti-globalization movement, that another world was possible.
        > >
        > > But during the Cold War - thanks to Stalinism and the success of such
        > > dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's ''Brave New World" and George
        > Orwell's
        > > ''Nineteen Eighty-Four" - all radical programs promising social
        > > transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened
        > liberals
        > > at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the theologian and
        > > public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the
        > > utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."
        > >
        > > Niebuhr and other influential anti-utopians of mid-century - Isaiah
        > > Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Karl Popper - had a point. From Plato's
        > ''Republic"
        > > to Thomas More's 1517 traveler's tale ''Utopia" (the title of which
        > became
        > > a generic term), to the idealistic communism of Rousseau and other pre-
        > > and post-French Revolution thinkers, to Bellamy's ''Looking Backward"
        > > itself, utopian narratives have often shared a naive and unseemly
        > > eagerness to force square pegs into round holes via thought control and
        > > coercion. By the end of the 20th century, most utopian projects did look
        > > proto-totalitarian.
        > >
        > > In recent years, however, certain eminent contrarians - most notably
        > > Fredric Jameson, author of the seminal ''Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural
        > > Logic of Late Capitalism" (1991) and Russell Jacoby, author most
        > recently
        > > of ''The End of Utopia" (1999) and ''Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought
        > > for an Anti-Utopian Age" (2005)-have lamented the wholesale abandonment
        > of
        > > such utopian ideas of the left as the abolition of property, the triumph
        > > of solidarity, and the end of racism and sexism.
        > >
        > > The question, for thinkers like these, is how to revive the spirit of
        > > utopia - the current enfeeblement of which, Jameson claims, ''saps our
        > > political options and tends to leave us all in the helpless position of
        > > passive accomplices and impotent handwringers" - without repeating the
        > > errors of what Jacoby has dubbed ''blueprint utopianism," that is, a
        > > tendency to map out utopian society in minute detail. How to avoid, as
        > > Jameson puts it, effectively ''colonizing the future"?
        > >
        > > Is the thought of a noncapitalist utopia even possible after Stalinism,
        > > after decades of anticommunist polemic on the part of brilliant and
        > > morally engaged intellectuals? Or are we all convinced, in a politically
        > > paralyzing way, that Margaret Thatcher had it right when she crowed that
        > > ''there is no alternative" to free-market capitalism?
        > >
        > > Borrowing Sartre's slogan, coined after the Soviet invasion of Hungary,
        > > about being neither communist nor anticommunist but
        > ''anti-anticommunist,"
        > > Jameson suggests we give ''anti-anti-utopianism" a try. In his latest
        > > book, ''Archaeologies of the Future," just published by Verso, he
        > invites
        > > us to explore an overlooked canon of anti-anti-utopian narratives that
        > > some, to echo Niebuhr, might find embarrassingly adolescent: offbeat
        > > science fiction novels of the 1960s and '70s.
        > >
        > > Jameson, a professor of comparative literature at Duke, isn't talking
        > > about ''Star Trek" novelizations. Because of the Cold War emphasis on
        > > dystopias, Cold War writers like Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and
        > > Samuel R. Delany had to find radical new ways to express their
        > > inexpressible hopes about the future, claims Jameson. At this moment of
        > > neoliberal triumphalism, he suggests, we should take these writers
        > > seriously - even if their ideas are packaged inside lurid paperbacks.
        > >
        > > In Dick's uncanny novels, the author demands of us that we decide for
        > > ourselves what's real and what isn't. ''Martian Time-Slip" (1964), for
        > > example, is partly told from the perspective of a 10-year-old
        > > schizophrenic colonist on Mars, where civilization is devolving into
        > > ''gubbish." And ''The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (1965) is a
        > > psychedelic odyssey of hallucinations-within-hallucinations from which
        > no
        > > reader emerges unscathed.
        > >
        > > Delany, meanwhile, is best known for ''Trouble on Triton" (1976), a
        > > self-consciously post-structuralist novel that depicts a future where
        > > neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is the norm. Le Guin, author
        > of
        > > a fantasy series for children, ''The Earthsea Trilogy," explores Taoist,
        > > anarchist, and feminist themes in novels like ''The Left Hand of
        > Darkness"
        > > (1969) and ''The Dispossessed" (1974). Fans of Dick, Delany, and their
        > ilk
        > > warn neophytes not to read too many of their books too quickly: Doing
        > so,
        > > as this reader can attest, tends to result in pronounced feelings of
        > > irreality, paranoia, and angst.
        > >
        > > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson characterizes utopian narratives (which he
        > > classifies as a subgenre of science fiction) as being, at the level of
        > > content, less a vision of a truly different world than a
        > > situation-specific response to a concrete historical dilemma: the
        > > immiseration of the working class during the later 19th century, in
        > > Bellamy's case. Such content is ''vacuous," he sniffs, and of interest
        > > primarily to antiquarians.
        > >
        > > The ability of utopian narratives in particular, and science fiction in
        > > general, to break the paralyzing spell of the quotidian has less to do
        > > with its content than with its form, he argues persuasively. (Buck
        > > Rogers-type science fiction in the mode of ''extrapolation and mere
        > > anticipation of all kinds of technological marvels," as Jameson puts it,
        > > is far less effective at doing so.) It requires a tremendous effort to
        > > imagine a daily life that is politically, economically, socially, and
        > > psychologically truly different from our own. And this effort, Jameson
        > > writes, warps the structure of science fiction. As a result, he claims,
        > > even Dick's amphetamine-fuelled potboilers are as productively
        > alienating
        > > as the plays of Brecht and Beckett.
        > >
        > > But isn't it perverse to describe novels quite so alienating as utopian?
        > > The title character of Dick's ''Palmer Eldritch," for example, is an
        > > industrialist-turned-evil demiurge who brings to mankind a ''negative
        > > trinity" of ''alienation, blurred reality, and despair" in the form of
        > > Chew-Z, a drug that inducts users into a hallucinatory semireality from
        > > which they can never finally escape. Le Guin's ''The Dispossessed,"
        > > meanwhile, was written as a pointed critique of typical utopian
        > > narratives: It's set on Annares, a planet whose hippie-like inhabitants
        > > value voluntary cooperation, local control, and mutual tolerance - but
        > who
        > > have preserved their grooviness through dogmatic conformism and an
        > > entrenched bureaucracy that stifles innovation. Le Guin's protagonist
        > > abandons Annares for a nearby world, one that is superior in important
        > > respects because its inhabitants value the free market; later editions
        > of
        > > the book are subtitled ''An Ambiguous Utopia."
        > >
        > > Delany, finally, gave ''Triton" (set on a Neptunian colony where no one
        > > goes hungry and everyone is sexually confused) the subtitle ''An
        > Ambiguous
        > > Heterotopia," to signal his own critique not only of utopian narratives
        > > but of Le Guin's vestigial nostalgia for pastoral communes.
        > >
        > > Asked in a recent interview why the science fiction novels that he calls
        > > utopian portray future societies not even remotely like the
        > > cloud-cuckoo-land the term suggests, Jameson explained that the problem
        > > confronting Cold War science fiction writers was how to describe utopia
        > > ''negatively," in terms of what it won't be like. ''There is, in effect,
        > a
        > > ban on graven images, meaning you can't represent the future in a
        > > realistic way," he said. Anti-anti-utopian writing ''has to be about
        > > freeing the imagination from the present," Jameson continued, ''rather
        > > than trying to offer impoverished pictures of what life in the future's
        > > going to be."
        > >
        > > Dystopias aren't the only example of ''negative" utopianism, Jameson
        > > points out in ''Archaeologies." The rise to popularity in the mid-1960s
        > > and early '70s of disaster novels - about atomic warfare, meteors
        > hitting
        > > the Earth, environmental collapse, and so forth - ought to be
        > interpreted
        > > as evidence of a collective desire to start over from scratch, he
        > writes.
        > > He points to books like Dick's ''Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along
        > After
        > > the Bomb" (1965), a pastoral set in a post-apocalyptic Berkeley; Le
        > Guin's
        > > ''The Lathe of Heaven" (1971), about an overpopulated Portland, Ore.,
        > made
        > > livable by a plague; and John Brunner's ''The Sheep Look Up" (1972),
        > about
        > > an Earth whose air is unbreathable.
        > >
        > > These books are more utopian, in a way, than Bellamy-style idylls,
        > Jameson
        > > claims, because the latter offer false hope that ameliorative reforms
        > > might transform society. ''What utopian thought wants to make us aware
        > of
        > > is the need for complete systemic change, change in the totality of
        > social
        > > relations, and not just an improvement in bourgeois culture," he said.
        > > ''If we want a [bourgeois idyll], we can go to Celebration, Fla."
        > >
        > > If discussing a future society that can't be represented realistically
        > is
        > > complicated and off-putting, that's because ''it's a new form of
        > > thinking," Jameson insisted. ''It's a new dimension of the exercise of
        > the
        > > imagination."
        > >
        > > Jameson, who's been writing about Dick, Le Guin, Delany, Brunner, and
        > > others in the pages of scholarly journals like Science Fiction Studies
        > for
        > > 30 years, is reticent when it comes to the question of what makes a
        > great
        > > anti-anti-utopian narrative. ''The talent or the greatness of science
        > > fiction writers," he said, ''lies in what individual solutions they have
        > > for a formal problem - the ban on graven images - that cannot be
        > resolved.
        > > There's no universal recipe." But when it comes to the power of science
        > > fiction to spring us from what he claims is our current state of
        > political
        > > paralysis, Jameson is enthusiastic. ''It's only when people come to
        > > realize that there is no alternative," he said, ''that they react
        > against
        > > it, at least in their imaginations, and try to think of alternatives."
        > >
        > > Can reading science fiction, I asked, help us decide between various
        > > utopian alternatives - urban vs. pastoral, statist vs. anarchistic? No,
        > > replied Jameson, insisting there are ''utopian elements" in each of
        > these.
        > > What science fiction does afford us, he said, ''is not a synthesis of
        > > these elements but a process where the imagination begins to question
        > > itself, to move back and forth among the possibilities."
        > >
        > > What contemporary science fiction author most inspires this ideal
        > process?
        > > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson suggests it might be a former doctoral
        > > student of his, Kim Stanley Robinson, who wrote his dissertation on
        > Philip
        > > K. Dick and whose popular trilogy, ''Red Mars" (1992), ''Green Mars"
        > > (1993), and ''Blue Mars" (1995), explores the political, economic, and
        > > ecological crises that ensue when 21st-century colonists from Earth
        > begin
        > > terraforming Mars. Instead of asking the reader to decide on any one of
        > > the colonists' competing utopian ideologies, Jameson said, Robinson
        > ''goes
        > > back and forth between these various visions, [allowing us to see] it's
        > > not a matter of choosing between them but of using them to destabilize
        > our
        > > own existence, our own social life at present."
        > >
        > > In the final analysis, Jameson writes in ''Archaeologies," the demanding
        > > exercise of holding incompatible visions in mind is what ''gives utopia
        > > its savor and its bitter freshness, when the thought of utopias is still
        > > possible."
        > >
        > >
        > > Joshua Glenn writes the Examined Life column for Ideas. E-mail
        > > jglenn@....
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------
        > YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS
        >
        >
        > - Visit your group "sciencefictionclassics<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sciencefictionclassics>"
        > on the web.
        >
        > - To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        > sciencefictionclassics-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com<sciencefictionclassics-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com?subject=Unsubscribe>
        >
        > - Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
        > Service <http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/>.
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------
        >



        --
        The Transmundial rules all


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Mike B
        Ok I did a search for Bellamy and found a fairly recent one, I somehow missed! I m reading Looking Back now, at first I was thinking, boy did this guy miss
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 8, 2006
        • 0 Attachment
          Ok I did a search for Bellamy and found a fairly recent one, I somehow
          missed! I'm reading Looking Back now, at first I was thinking, 'boy
          did this guy miss the mark!' but then on continuing realized he was
          proposing a socialist reform. Also read his 'Dr H_____' (sorry, don't
          remember the name) - a short story. Basically, as a writer, Bellamy
          takes a certain s-f premise, and uses that to editoralize. Given his
          newspaper background I guess that makes sense.
          You can get these stories and others by him in free e-book format at
          gutenberg.com

          Mike B

          --- In sciencefictionclassics@yahoogroups.com, Aleus Mundi
          <novovacuum@g...> wrote:
          >
          > Hey, Amy! Good to have you back in the forum.
          >
          > On 12/6/05, Amy Harlib <aharlib@e...> wrote:
          > >
          > >
          > > aharlib@e...
          > >
          > > > Terrific little essay!
          > >
          > >
          http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/11/20/back_to_utopia/
          > > >
          > > > Back to utopia
          > > >
          > > > Can the antidote to today's neoliberal triumphalism be found in the
          > > pages
          > > > of far-out science fiction?
          > > >
          > > > By Joshua Glenn | November 20, 2005
          > > >
          > > >
          > > > IN 1888, when Massachusetts newspaperman Edward Bellamy
          published his
          > > > science fiction novel ''Looking Backward," set in a Boston of
          the year
          > > > 2000, it sold half a million copies. Never mind the futuristic
          > > inventions
          > > > (electric lighting, credit cards) and visionary city planning; what
          > > > readers responded to was the transformation of a Gilded Age city of
          > > labor
          > > > strikes and social unrest into a socialist utopia (Bellamy called it
          > > > ''nationalist") of full employment and material abundance.
          > > >
          > > > By 1890 there were 162 reformist Bellamy Clubs around the
          country, with
          > > a
          > > > membership that included public figures like the influential
          novelist,
          > > > editor, and critic William Dean Howells; and from 1891-96, the
          > > > Bellamy-inspired Nationalist Party helped propel the Populist
          Movement.
          > > > The Bellamyites fervently believed, to paraphrase the slogan of
          today's
          > > > anti-globalization movement, that another world was possible.
          > > >
          > > > But during the Cold War - thanks to Stalinism and the success of
          such
          > > > dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's ''Brave New World" and George
          > > Orwell's
          > > > ''Nineteen Eighty-Four" - all radical programs promising social
          > > > transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened
          > > liberals
          > > > at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the
          theologian and
          > > > public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the
          > > > utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."
          > > >
          > > > Niebuhr and other influential anti-utopians of mid-century - Isaiah
          > > > Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Karl Popper - had a point. From Plato's
          > > ''Republic"
          > > > to Thomas More's 1517 traveler's tale ''Utopia" (the title of which
          > > became
          > > > a generic term), to the idealistic communism of Rousseau and
          other pre-
          > > > and post-French Revolution thinkers, to Bellamy's ''Looking
          Backward"
          > > > itself, utopian narratives have often shared a naive and unseemly
          > > > eagerness to force square pegs into round holes via thought
          control and
          > > > coercion. By the end of the 20th century, most utopian projects
          did look
          > > > proto-totalitarian.
          > > >
          > > > In recent years, however, certain eminent contrarians - most notably
          > > > Fredric Jameson, author of the seminal ''Postmodernism, Or, the
          Cultural
          > > > Logic of Late Capitalism" (1991) and Russell Jacoby, author most
          > > recently
          > > > of ''The End of Utopia" (1999) and ''Picture Imperfect: Utopian
          Thought
          > > > for an Anti-Utopian Age" (2005)-have lamented the wholesale
          abandonment
          > > of
          > > > such utopian ideas of the left as the abolition of property, the
          triumph
          > > > of solidarity, and the end of racism and sexism.
          > > >
          > > > The question, for thinkers like these, is how to revive the
          spirit of
          > > > utopia - the current enfeeblement of which, Jameson claims,
          ''saps our
          > > > political options and tends to leave us all in the helpless
          position of
          > > > passive accomplices and impotent handwringers" - without
          repeating the
          > > > errors of what Jacoby has dubbed ''blueprint utopianism," that is, a
          > > > tendency to map out utopian society in minute detail. How to
          avoid, as
          > > > Jameson puts it, effectively ''colonizing the future"?
          > > >
          > > > Is the thought of a noncapitalist utopia even possible after
          Stalinism,
          > > > after decades of anticommunist polemic on the part of brilliant and
          > > > morally engaged intellectuals? Or are we all convinced, in a
          politically
          > > > paralyzing way, that Margaret Thatcher had it right when she
          crowed that
          > > > ''there is no alternative" to free-market capitalism?
          > > >
          > > > Borrowing Sartre's slogan, coined after the Soviet invasion of
          Hungary,
          > > > about being neither communist nor anticommunist but
          > > ''anti-anticommunist,"
          > > > Jameson suggests we give ''anti-anti-utopianism" a try. In his
          latest
          > > > book, ''Archaeologies of the Future," just published by Verso, he
          > > invites
          > > > us to explore an overlooked canon of anti-anti-utopian
          narratives that
          > > > some, to echo Niebuhr, might find embarrassingly adolescent: offbeat
          > > > science fiction novels of the 1960s and '70s.
          > > >
          > > > Jameson, a professor of comparative literature at Duke, isn't
          talking
          > > > about ''Star Trek" novelizations. Because of the Cold War
          emphasis on
          > > > dystopias, Cold War writers like Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le
          Guin, and
          > > > Samuel R. Delany had to find radical new ways to express their
          > > > inexpressible hopes about the future, claims Jameson. At this
          moment of
          > > > neoliberal triumphalism, he suggests, we should take these writers
          > > > seriously - even if their ideas are packaged inside lurid
          paperbacks.
          > > >
          > > > In Dick's uncanny novels, the author demands of us that we
          decide for
          > > > ourselves what's real and what isn't. ''Martian Time-Slip"
          (1964), for
          > > > example, is partly told from the perspective of a 10-year-old
          > > > schizophrenic colonist on Mars, where civilization is devolving into
          > > > ''gubbish." And ''The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (1965) is a
          > > > psychedelic odyssey of hallucinations-within-hallucinations from
          which
          > > no
          > > > reader emerges unscathed.
          > > >
          > > > Delany, meanwhile, is best known for ''Trouble on Triton" (1976), a
          > > > self-consciously post-structuralist novel that depicts a future
          where
          > > > neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is the norm. Le Guin,
          author
          > > of
          > > > a fantasy series for children, ''The Earthsea Trilogy," explores
          Taoist,
          > > > anarchist, and feminist themes in novels like ''The Left Hand of
          > > Darkness"
          > > > (1969) and ''The Dispossessed" (1974). Fans of Dick, Delany, and
          their
          > > ilk
          > > > warn neophytes not to read too many of their books too quickly:
          Doing
          > > so,
          > > > as this reader can attest, tends to result in pronounced feelings of
          > > > irreality, paranoia, and angst.
          > > >
          > > > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson characterizes utopian narratives
          (which he
          > > > classifies as a subgenre of science fiction) as being, at the
          level of
          > > > content, less a vision of a truly different world than a
          > > > situation-specific response to a concrete historical dilemma: the
          > > > immiseration of the working class during the later 19th century, in
          > > > Bellamy's case. Such content is ''vacuous," he sniffs, and of
          interest
          > > > primarily to antiquarians.
          > > >
          > > > The ability of utopian narratives in particular, and science
          fiction in
          > > > general, to break the paralyzing spell of the quotidian has less
          to do
          > > > with its content than with its form, he argues persuasively. (Buck
          > > > Rogers-type science fiction in the mode of ''extrapolation and mere
          > > > anticipation of all kinds of technological marvels," as Jameson
          puts it,
          > > > is far less effective at doing so.) It requires a tremendous
          effort to
          > > > imagine a daily life that is politically, economically,
          socially, and
          > > > psychologically truly different from our own. And this effort,
          Jameson
          > > > writes, warps the structure of science fiction. As a result, he
          claims,
          > > > even Dick's amphetamine-fuelled potboilers are as productively
          > > alienating
          > > > as the plays of Brecht and Beckett.
          > > >
          > > > But isn't it perverse to describe novels quite so alienating as
          utopian?
          > > > The title character of Dick's ''Palmer Eldritch," for example, is an
          > > > industrialist-turned-evil demiurge who brings to mankind a
          ''negative
          > > > trinity" of ''alienation, blurred reality, and despair" in the
          form of
          > > > Chew-Z, a drug that inducts users into a hallucinatory
          semireality from
          > > > which they can never finally escape. Le Guin's ''The Dispossessed,"
          > > > meanwhile, was written as a pointed critique of typical utopian
          > > > narratives: It's set on Annares, a planet whose hippie-like
          inhabitants
          > > > value voluntary cooperation, local control, and mutual tolerance
          - but
          > > who
          > > > have preserved their grooviness through dogmatic conformism and an
          > > > entrenched bureaucracy that stifles innovation. Le Guin's
          protagonist
          > > > abandons Annares for a nearby world, one that is superior in
          important
          > > > respects because its inhabitants value the free market; later
          editions
          > > of
          > > > the book are subtitled ''An Ambiguous Utopia."
          > > >
          > > > Delany, finally, gave ''Triton" (set on a Neptunian colony where
          no one
          > > > goes hungry and everyone is sexually confused) the subtitle ''An
          > > Ambiguous
          > > > Heterotopia," to signal his own critique not only of utopian
          narratives
          > > > but of Le Guin's vestigial nostalgia for pastoral communes.
          > > >
          > > > Asked in a recent interview why the science fiction novels that
          he calls
          > > > utopian portray future societies not even remotely like the
          > > > cloud-cuckoo-land the term suggests, Jameson explained that the
          problem
          > > > confronting Cold War science fiction writers was how to describe
          utopia
          > > > ''negatively," in terms of what it won't be like. ''There is, in
          effect,
          > > a
          > > > ban on graven images, meaning you can't represent the future in a
          > > > realistic way," he said. Anti-anti-utopian writing ''has to be about
          > > > freeing the imagination from the present," Jameson continued,
          ''rather
          > > > than trying to offer impoverished pictures of what life in the
          future's
          > > > going to be."
          > > >
          > > > Dystopias aren't the only example of ''negative" utopianism, Jameson
          > > > points out in ''Archaeologies." The rise to popularity in the
          mid-1960s
          > > > and early '70s of disaster novels - about atomic warfare, meteors
          > > hitting
          > > > the Earth, environmental collapse, and so forth - ought to be
          > > interpreted
          > > > as evidence of a collective desire to start over from scratch, he
          > > writes.
          > > > He points to books like Dick's ''Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along
          > > After
          > > > the Bomb" (1965), a pastoral set in a post-apocalyptic Berkeley; Le
          > > Guin's
          > > > ''The Lathe of Heaven" (1971), about an overpopulated Portland,
          Ore.,
          > > made
          > > > livable by a plague; and John Brunner's ''The Sheep Look Up" (1972),
          > > about
          > > > an Earth whose air is unbreathable.
          > > >
          > > > These books are more utopian, in a way, than Bellamy-style idylls,
          > > Jameson
          > > > claims, because the latter offer false hope that ameliorative
          reforms
          > > > might transform society. ''What utopian thought wants to make us
          aware
          > > of
          > > > is the need for complete systemic change, change in the totality of
          > > social
          > > > relations, and not just an improvement in bourgeois culture," he
          said.
          > > > ''If we want a [bourgeois idyll], we can go to Celebration, Fla."
          > > >
          > > > If discussing a future society that can't be represented
          realistically
          > > is
          > > > complicated and off-putting, that's because ''it's a new form of
          > > > thinking," Jameson insisted. ''It's a new dimension of the
          exercise of
          > > the
          > > > imagination."
          > > >
          > > > Jameson, who's been writing about Dick, Le Guin, Delany,
          Brunner, and
          > > > others in the pages of scholarly journals like Science Fiction
          Studies
          > > for
          > > > 30 years, is reticent when it comes to the question of what makes a
          > > great
          > > > anti-anti-utopian narrative. ''The talent or the greatness of
          science
          > > > fiction writers," he said, ''lies in what individual solutions
          they have
          > > > for a formal problem - the ban on graven images - that cannot be
          > > resolved.
          > > > There's no universal recipe." But when it comes to the power of
          science
          > > > fiction to spring us from what he claims is our current state of
          > > political
          > > > paralysis, Jameson is enthusiastic. ''It's only when people come to
          > > > realize that there is no alternative," he said, ''that they react
          > > against
          > > > it, at least in their imaginations, and try to think of
          alternatives."
          > > >
          > > > Can reading science fiction, I asked, help us decide between various
          > > > utopian alternatives - urban vs. pastoral, statist vs.
          anarchistic? No,
          > > > replied Jameson, insisting there are ''utopian elements" in each of
          > > these.
          > > > What science fiction does afford us, he said, ''is not a
          synthesis of
          > > > these elements but a process where the imagination begins to
          question
          > > > itself, to move back and forth among the possibilities."
          > > >
          > > > What contemporary science fiction author most inspires this ideal
          > > process?
          > > > In ''Archaeologies," Jameson suggests it might be a former doctoral
          > > > student of his, Kim Stanley Robinson, who wrote his dissertation on
          > > Philip
          > > > K. Dick and whose popular trilogy, ''Red Mars" (1992), ''Green Mars"
          > > > (1993), and ''Blue Mars" (1995), explores the political,
          economic, and
          > > > ecological crises that ensue when 21st-century colonists from Earth
          > > begin
          > > > terraforming Mars. Instead of asking the reader to decide on any
          one of
          > > > the colonists' competing utopian ideologies, Jameson said, Robinson
          > > ''goes
          > > > back and forth between these various visions, [allowing us to
          see] it's
          > > > not a matter of choosing between them but of using them to
          destabilize
          > > our
          > > > own existence, our own social life at present."
          > > >
          > > > In the final analysis, Jameson writes in ''Archaeologies," the
          demanding
          > > > exercise of holding incompatible visions in mind is what ''gives
          utopia
          > > > its savor and its bitter freshness, when the thought of utopias
          is still
          > > > possible."
          > > >
          > > >
          > > > Joshua Glenn writes the Examined Life column for Ideas. E-mail
          > > > jglenn@g...
          > >
          > >
          > > ------------------------------
          > > YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS
          > >
          > >
          > > - Visit your group
          "sciencefictionclassics<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sciencefictionclassics>"
          > > on the web.
          > >
          > > - To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
          > >
          sciencefictionclassics-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com<sciencefictionclassics-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com?subject=Unsubscribe>
          > >
          > > - Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
          > > Service <http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/>.
          > >
          > >
          > > ------------------------------
          > >
          >
          >
          >
          > --
          > The Transmundial rules all
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.