Utopia has long been banished from political theory, framed as an impossible—and possibly dangerous—political ideal, a flawed social blueprint, or a thought experiment without any practical import. Even the "realistic utopias" of liberal theory strike many as wishful thinking. Can politics think utopia otherwise? Can utopian thinking contribute to the renewal of politics?
Political Uses of Utopia, an international cast of leading and emerging theorists agree that the uses of utopia for politics are multiple and nuanced and lie somewhere between—or, better yet, beyond—the mainstream caution against it and the conviction that another, better world ought to be possible. Representing a range of perspectives on the grand tradition of Western utopianism, which extends back half a millennium and perhaps as far as Plato, these essays are united in their interest in the relevance of utopianism to specific historical and contemporary political contexts. Featuring contributions from Miguel Abensour, Étienne Balibar, Raymond Geuss, and Jacques Rancière, among others,
Political Uses of Utopia reopens the question of whether and how utopianism can inform political thinking and action today.
S. D. Chrostowska teaches humanities and social and political thought at York University and is the author of the critical-philosophical fragments
Matches (2015), the novel
Permission (2013), and
Literature on Trial: The Emergence of Critical Discourse in Germany, Poland, and Russia, 1700-1800 (2012).
James D. Ingram teaches political theory at McMaster University. He is the author of
Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism (Columbia, 2013).
Peter Fitting, University of Toronto:
This is an important book which bridges the "disjuncture between utopia and politics," a gap which has grown as the expanding study of Utopia in North America is increasingly considered "not as a kind of political theory, but, as an artistic and cultural phenomena." This collection of essays from different political currents takes as its organizing principle "that utopianism must have something more, and something more specific, to offer politics and political reflection." A needed contribution, it will prove indispensable for all those who are trying to ground the desire for another world in political theory.
Matthew Beaumont, University College London: This timely book, a sensitively coordinated collocation of some of the most important voices in contemporary political theory, is a fascinating and at times thrilling intervention in the ongoing but currently pressing debate about the concept of utopia and its uses and abuses. In addition to reimparting a vital sense of intellectual excitement to the term utopia, this collection discovers in it a political and philosophical richness for which today it is all too rarely credited.
Vincent Geoghegan, emeritus professor of political theory, Queen's University, Belfast: This is a fine addition to the burgeoning literature on utopias and utopianism; wide-ranging in its scope, and with an international range of distinguished contributors. An excellent introduction sets up the agenda.
Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo, Rutgers University-Newark: This is a remarkable collection of essays on the critical import and significance of utopia and utopianism for politics. The range and depth of the contributions in this carefully curated collection is simply peerless.
Russell Jacoby, author of The End of Utopia, University of California, Los Angeles: In an era suffering from stale political choices, utopian thinking is showing signs of life. Political Uses of Utopia offers up a rich smorgasbord of recent efforts to make relevant the utopian project. With a generous selection of newly translated pieces by French, German, and Spanish scholars, this collection joins the debate on the future of utopian thought. S. D. Chrostowska and James D. Ingram should be saluted for editing this exemplary volume.
Peter G. Stillman, Vassar College: Utopian students and scholars will recognize that they must own this book and digest, confront, and come to terms with the various arguments and interpretations of utopia.