Synopses & Reviews
The concept of utopia remains as urgent and relevant as ever, nearly 500 years after being coined by Sir Thomas More. Paying the concept too much respect by reducing it to a Morean perfection; or pushing it too far by relocating utopia from the spatial to the cognitive or the temporal reduces its conceptual power. To understand what it is that the concept 'utopia' might do it is necessary to pay it a 'subversive fidelity'.
Returning to the three constituent parts of the word: 'good' (eu), 'place' (topos) and 'no' (ou); David M. Bell reflects how these words might be thought 'nomadically' that is, via a constellation of theory that asserts the importance of immanent, affective relations and posits difference as ontologically prior to identity. The 'good' draws on Deleuze and Spinoza's affective ethical thought; 'place' from contemporary political geography; and the 'no' theorized via a reading of Ahmed's critique of happiness and Foucault's work on power. Bell engages with a variety of practices and forms to illustrate and develop its concepts, including popular education/critical pedagogy; the Occupy movement; musical performance; and utopian literature.
Bell s rethinking of utopia's etymology offers a new way of thinking utopia that helps overcome some of the binary oppositions that structure current thinking about the topic. It allows utopia to be thought in terms of place and process; affirmation and negation; and the real and the imaginary. This volume will be among the first to offer an extended reading of utopia through the lens of affect, whilst maintaining a critical stance vis a vis much of the recent 'affective turn' in the social sciences.
Over five hundred years since it was named, utopia remains a vital concept for understanding and challenging the world(s) we inhabit, even in or rather because of the condition of post-utopianism that supposedly permeates them. In Rethinking Utopia David M. Bell offers a diagnosis of the present through the lens of utopia and then, by rethinking the concept through engagement with utopian studies, a variety of radical theories and the need for decolonizing praxis, shows how utopianism might work within, against and beyond that which exists in order to provide us with hope for a better future.
He proposes paying a subversive fidelity to utopia, in which its three constituent terms: good (eu), place (topos), and no (ou) are rethought to assert the importance of immanent, affective relations. The volume engages with a variety of practices and forms to articulate such a utopianism, including popular education/critical pedagogy; musical improvisation; and utopian literature. The problems as well as the possibilities of this utopianism are explored, although the problems are often revealed to be possibilities, provided they are subject to material challenge.
Rethinking Utopia offers a way of thinking about (and perhaps realising) utopia that helps overcome some of the binary oppositions structuring much thinking about the topic. It allows utopia to be thought in terms of place and process; affirmation and negation; and the real and the not-yet. It engages with the spatial and affective turns in the social sciences without ever uncritically being subsumed by them; and seeks to make connections to indigenous cosmologies. It is a cautious, careful, critical work punctuated by both pessimism and hope; and a refusal to accept the finality of this or any world.