Utopia and its Discontents: Dreams of Catastrophe and the End of 'the End of History'

Charles, M. 2010. Utopia and its Discontents: Dreams of Catastrophe and the End of 'the End of History'. Studies in Social and Political Thought. 18, pp. 29-40.

TitleUtopia and its Discontents: Dreams of Catastrophe and the End of 'the End of History'
AuthorsCharles, M.
Abstract

The institutionalization of Utopia Studies in the last decade is premised upon a specifically aesthetic reception of Ernst Bloch’s theory of the “utopian impulse” during the 1980s and 1990s. A postmodern uneasiness to both left and right formulations of the "End of History" during this period imposes a resistance to concepts of historical and political closure or totality, resulting in a "Utopianism without Utopia". For all the attractiveness of this pan-utopianism, its failure to consider the relation between historical representation and fulfillment renders it consummate with liberalism as a merely inverted conservatism.

In contrast to this specific recuperation of a Bloch, the continuing importance of Walter Benjamin’s theory of the dialectical image and the speculative concept of historical experience which underlies it becomes apparent. The intrusion of the historical Absolute is coded throughout Benjamin’s thought as the eruptive and mortuary figure of catastrophe, which stands as the dialectical counterpart to the utopian wish images of the collective dream. Indeed, the motto under which the Arcades Project was to be constructed derives from Adorno: “Each epoch dreams of itself as annihilated by catastrophe”.

KeywordsWalter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Utopian
JournalStudies in Social and Political Thought
Journal citation18, pp. 29-40
Year2010
PublisherUniversity of Sussex’s Centre for Social and Political Thought
Web address (URL)https://ssptjournal.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/sspt-18.pdf

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