“The Politics of the Imagination”



Fifth Estate # 385, Fall, 2011

[The] utopia of domination is utopia as escapism. This danger is especially real for those utopians who have been frustrated in their efforts to realize their dreams, or who do not even reach the level of praxis. Utopia as escapism remains in the vacuous realm of what Hegel called the Beautiful Soul, of those Dreamers of Moral Perfection who are unable to cope with the ugliness and ambiguity of the world, and therefore cling to a bloodless ideal.

The utopia of escape has its satisfactions. We believe because belief fulfills needs and satisfies desires. Utopia can be an escape from the imperfections of the world and their reflection within our own selves. It can be an escape from the exigencies of the real, from history and its unavoidable tragedies. It can be an escape from the minutiae of the everyday. It can offer an imaginary compensation for being denied real power or having real efficacy. If we can’t escape from the Bowels of the Beast, we can lose ourselves in the Bowels of the Movement.

In this sense, utopia is neurosis, a defense mechanism, a convulsive reaction against self and world. It is the imaginary domination of reality, rather than the imaginative transformation of reality. It is thought’s revenge against a recalcitrant reality.

Available online as Chapter 2 of The Surre(Gion)alist Manifesto by Max Cafard