- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Utopia of the Week?

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on March 05, 19100 at 01:17:51:

In Reply to: Hey Stolly we agree!!! posted by Lark on March 04, 19100 at 12:19:17:

: I really hope so, I think there should be an end to weapons production on day two of the revolution and compulsory schooling in survivalism and guerilla warfare for all citizens from day two and the establishment of a trade union-militia movement that all citizens are instantly members of upon turning eighteen (they can have their membership revoked if they are absolute pacifists).

SDF: Is the above a description of your Utopia of the Week? Or is it "libertarian kibbutzism"? In the kaleidoscope of opinion that runs under the name on this board, Lark, I really haven't picked out any pattern that would display any method to your changes of opinion, any hint that in your various ratiocinations you are getting anywhere. I know I've praised you in the past for your ability to revise your opinions, but at the same time I feel compelled to ask whether your power to revise has any purpose to it besides giving you something to do while you're with your mates at the pub. Do you try opinions on to see what it feels like to believe in them? It's a plausible approach, but I'm not sure it will get you what you're looking for. (If you wake up one day and decide you like Stoller's utopia, will you be prepared to take communion with the Church of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky the next?) So if I may, I'd like to suggest a reasoning process to buttress your various and sundry utopian dreams, which of course will reflect my own opinions about the subject. It's centered around two concepts that will allow you to revise with a purpose: utopian dreaming and historical materialism.

The point of utopian dreaming, as I understood Freire's use of the phrase, was in allowing the dreamer to pose a series of contrasts between the conditions of this world and the-world-as-it-might-be-otherwise. We might dream of a just world, for instance, in order to conceptualize our frustration at conditions we perceive as "unjust," or we might dream of a world of freedom, for instance, in order to conceptualize our feelings of not being "free" from something or not being "free" to do something.

So the point of utopian dreaming, IMHO, is to propose some other, not-yet-existent, world, in order to shed light upon the contradictions of this one. So what ARE the contradictions of this world? Well, first of all, it's a world where all would desire the fabulous wealth advertised on television and elsewhere, but where only some can actually enjoy it firsthand. So does utopian dreaming make sense as a "personal utopia" of "wealth for me"? Of course not, that world of wealth already exists, and the desire to be one of the elite is a MASK, not an uncovering, of the contradictions of the present. It is the FAILURE of the world to be that sort of utopian dream that provides ANY POINT AT ALL to that practice of utopian dreaming. If everyone could succeed in being rich only by dreaming of wealth, there would be no point in understanding contradictions.

Why understand the contradictions of capitalist society? Why understand, for instance, the Theory of Surplus Labor or the Labor Theory of Value or that stuff on class structure, or all of that stuff in Marx I've suggested you read starting with volume 1 of CAPITAL? Well, the task at hand as presupposed by my Freirean use of the idea of utopian dreaming is one of "what can we do in the here and now with what we've got"? Utopian dreaming provides us with a goal, with something we can do, but we need another concept to elaborate upon the here and now, to shed a light upon the present that illuminates not only why we dream what we dream within this present, but also why the world of today is so far from our various and sundry dreams.

Let me again suggest another thread that might unify those understandings, it's called HISTORICAL MATERIALISM. Historical materialism provides a story for how we got to our present predicament, with some pointers about what we might expect from the future were we to stay our present course. Historical materialism does this better than any other theory of history because, simply put, most of history is about the "achievements of great men," the folks who by virtue of their power are most empowered to put their stamps upon the historical record. History is written by the winners, as George Orwell once observed, but this is the history that is sheathed in ideologies. You are supposed to believe what the defenders of this ideology or that ideology would like you to believe, without a full consciousness of the dimensions of the historical struggles that extend into the present moment.

Historical materialism emphasizes instead the facts of the material world, most distinctly (thanks to Marx) the role of labor (and all labor is social labor, it only makes sense in light of a picture of the world's people working together for each other) in transforming the material world into something accessible to people, i.e. a series of products, a production. Historical materialism also emphasizes the historical role played by the natural world, and in this light I can most heartily recommend Clive Ponting's THE GREEN HISTORY OF THE WORLD, in that it shows how the natural world has been so radically transformed by global industry.

Historical materialism makes us ask, not, what's in the spotlight of history-making, but rather, what actually is the case and what are the forces transforming it, yesterday as today as tomorrow? And so it's a concept that will help you understand the realm of possibility making your utopian dreams into either possibilities for hope or mere chimerae.

In light of this, we might ask about the future of capitalism, the REAL future and not the future dreamed by the various and sundry dreamers who have inscribed so many of their words on McSpotlight C & A. Well, from what I can tell, the real future is likely to be further impacted by the conflict between the processes of capitalist overproduction and impoverishment, and the carrying capacity of the planet. There's also this matter of control of the oil supply as a possible focus for warfare, given the central role of fossil fuels in the present mode of industrial society, and there's this matter of what the popular consciousness of the present global society REALLY IS (and as I've said many times before, it CAN'T be presumed, one way or another, merely from the fact that the public doesn't vote) as a pointer to what it might be once the economic bubble bursts and the global economy nosedives. And, given all that Gideon/ Farinata has said about such process, it behooves us to know them well, esp. it behooves YOU to know them well, since Utopia of the Week is not likely to illuminate the contradictions of the present otherwise.

Have you considered doing an ethnography, Lark?

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