Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions

Fredric Jameson

Language: English

Pages: 431

ISBN: 1844675386

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful? Archaeologies of the Future, Jameson’s most substantial work since Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, investigates the development of this form since Thomas More, and interrogates the functions of utopian thinking in a post-Communist age. The relationship between utopia and science fiction is explored through the representations of otherness … alien life and alien worlds … and a study of the works of Philip K. Dick, Ursula LeGuin, William Gibson, Brian Aldiss, Kim Stanley Robinson and more. Jameson’s essential essays, including “The Desire Called Utopia,” conclude with an examination of the opposing positions on utopia and an assessment of its political value today.

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Utopians Adorno had in mind here: let's hope they did not include the grand figure of Morris himself! At any rate, it seems obvious enough that the diatribe is directed at Utopian fantasies organized around pleasure or enjoyment. Adorno was indeed himself a philosopher (and an aesthetician) whose central organizing preoccupation lay in suffering, in irreparable pain as such. He therefore had little tolerance for hedonism,6 and the passage suggests that for him the attempt to replace suffering

formalist way (readers of Hegel or Hjelmslev will know that form is in any case always the form of a specific content). It is not only the social and historical raw materials of the Utopian construct which are of interest from this perspective; but also the represen­ tational relations established between them - such as closure, narrative and exclusion or inversion. Here as elsewhere in narrative analysis what is most revealing is not what is said, but what cannot be said, what does not register

knowledge, and its symbiotic relation­ ship with humans, equally make it into a vehicle for transcending ordinary human possibilities.12 In Science Fiction, however, the relationship to the space­ ship as artificial intelligence (as most famously in 2001) or to other kinds of bio-technology, such as the intelligent house,13 is a relatively lateral development which only becomes central to the genre with the thematics of robots (Asimov), androids (Philip K. Dick), and later cyborgs (Donna

condemnation of industrial waste and abuse d la Ruskin, or of Marxian class consciousness. More frequently, such accounts of the fatal crisis of alien societies turn on features enumerated by Stapledon in his vast compilation of social fatalities (but in him secondary to the contradictions of class and industrial modernity), and in particular on religion and on biological destiny. It is indeed ironic, but perhaps significant, that the best of all alien repre­ sentations - Heinlein called it the

of an alien society and alien norms can be seen to be rather scandalous if translated into human and earthly terms. It is precisely this reverse Gestalt-structure that plays into the hands of SF's realist and psychoanalytic critics, who, insensitive to alien, let alone Utopian, figuration, retranslate these fantasies back to normal human neuroses, if not psychoses (remember the properly science-fictional cosmic fantasies of President Schreber, whose literary value Freud and Lacan both deny

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