Monday, August 29, 2011

Time Horizons: Utopia Edition

FLG isn't quite sure what to make of this article on the meaning of Utopia, but he did find it rife with time horizons references. Here's one of the opening quotations, all bolds are FLG's emphasis:
Even among bourgeois economists, there is hardly a serious thinker who will deny that it is possible, by means of currently existing material and intellectual forces of production, to put an end to hunger and poverty, and that the present state of things is due to the socio-political organization of the world.

— Herbert Marcuse, “The End of Utopia”

FLG's beloved Plato gets a large mention:
Plato’s “Republic” is commonly described as the first philosophical utopia. But this usage of the notion of utopia is quite illegitimate, because utopia, by its very etymology, means without-place, whereas Plato’s republic absolutely does not correspond to this definition. It is, in fact, that which par excellence has a place in the intelligible world.

By contrast, for Plato what has no place is the perceptible society of the here and now, in perpetual change, subject to all sorts of evils and incapable of taking human beings to where their true essence leads them. For Plato the organization and laws of the republic have to be inscribed in the perceptible world, however difficult this may be.

But for Machiavelli there is no elsewhere. It is no use escaping, dreaming about imaginary states. One has to stay here and now, and return to the “effective truth of the thing” in politics.

What makes this piece troubling for FLG is the contrast between Utopia, no place, and what the author, or rather the translator, describes here and now. As if there is nothing between the instantaneous present and some hypothetical world that doesn't exist. This sort of false dichotomy is most glaring when the author addresses Plato.

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