Envisioning (unreal) utopias

Charles Stross on the utopia shortage:


we badly need more utopian speculation. The consensus future we read about in the media and that we’re driving towards is a roiling, turbulent fogbank beset by half-glimpsed demons: climate change, resource depletion, peak oil, mass extinction, collapse of the oceanic food chain, overpopulation, terrorism, foreigners who want to come here and steal our women jobs. It’s not a nice place to be; if the past is another country, the consensus view of the future currently looks like a favela with raw sewage running in the streets. Conservativism — standing on the brake pedal — is a natural reaction to this vision; but it’s a maladaptive one, because it makes it harder to respond effectively to new and unprecedented problems.

Or in the words of Zizek (who is a reliable source of one-liners, if nothing else): “it is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system“.

Not that utopias need to be anticapitalist, mind. My own daydreams mostly involve capitalism withering slightly, as some areas currently market-driven are replaced by more satisfying forms of interaction. Same with the other utopia I find most appealing: the amorphous vision implicit in pirate/transparency/open-data circles, slowly coming into focus as those groups become aware of themselves. You can construct non-market versions of those ideals, but they pretty much degrade into communism, anarchism or (rarely, but IMO very plausibly) slavery. Otherwise, you’re left with the market/state/kindness for physical goods, sharing for intellectual goods, and probably some kind of permanent fudge in the middle.

Anyway, utopias: let’s have more of them, regardless of plausibility. What’s yours?

ETA: Although maybe there are a lot of utopian ideas floating around — just not ones I find remotely appealing. Religious fundamentalism is going strong. Pure no-holds-barred capitalism is a utopian ideal for some, and still a long way from being put into practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *