Thursday, June 15, 2006

Contemplating Utopianism for Charlie

Over the last couple days, I've done a lot to think about the modes of utopianism. Thinking didn't touch much on Charlie Jade, but I think a little exploration of these modes with less focus on CJ can help bring about more appreciation of the show.

I, as many of you know, have done work on a dystopian novel and project on utopianism over the last 13 years or so. The novel came first, then my adviser had me take on the project to bring about more understanding on the topic.

Considering that I've taken on this challenge to demonstrate my merit for a bachelor's degree, many, myself included, would probably think that I've worked a little too long on it. My answer: if someone else or myself had finished the work as I plan on doing it, I wouldn't have had to work so long on it. Please don't interpret that in thinking I wouldn't have done original work. Instead, I would have done work more appropriate to a bachelor's project: I would use the "theory" behind my current ideas to comment upon other pieces of work and historical communities.

I want criticize the current scholarship on utopianism before touching upon my own. My criticism doesn't revolve around these other scholars doing a bad job or even not contributing anything worthwhile to the scholarship of the topic.

Rather, my criticism centers on these scholars jumping ahead of defining the conventions of utopianism or of talking around. An ironic situation, if you ask me, since utopianism has a lot to say about boundaries.

Case in point: Ruth Levitas's The Concept of Utopia. She does a heroic job in her attempts to define utopia, but I don't think she takes the final step, especially since it proves somewhat difficult to flip around to use with dystopia or even to get used as a blanket term for all utopianism, even though she does a great job of exploring the topic from Plato's Republic through More's Utopia, Marx, the Utopian Socialists, Georges Sorel, Karl Mannheim all the way up to Krishan Kumar. She even makes a point that most of these theorists simply come up with a definition then include the utopias and dystopias that bolster their argument and neglect the ones that don't.

On p. 191 of the 1990 Philip Allan edition of her book, she defines Utopia as:

Utopia explores and expresses what is desired; under certain conditions it also contains the hope that these desires may be met in relaity, rather than merely in fantasy. The essential element in utopia is not hope, but desire -- the desire for a better way of being. . . . The definition goes beyond that of an alternative world, possible or otherwise.

Unfortunately, it's getting late, so I will need to continue this topic at some later date.

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