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Utopia in the History of Political Thought

Updated on January 9, 2020

The philosopher Paul Thomas (author of a classic book on Marx's relationship with anarchists) gave a special course at the University of Berkeley on the concept of utopia in the history of political thought, highlighting that, throughout history, there were two basic arguments for defending an "ideal" concept of politics, and for Utopia. Possible we seek at the end of the road (whether religious, secular, communist, etc.).

The first reason is simply to believe in this faith and to see it as a "truth" and not as a theory (this is God's promise, this is a scientific fact, the inevitable movement of history, human nature, etc.). On the other hand, there has always been the "utilitarian" argument in justifying utopia, arguing that, regardless of whether the example you are calling for is a realistic goal or just an illusion, you "need" it — if you intend to make any real change — in order to mobilize and move people.

The idea here is that man will not rise from his daily routine and risk, fight and sacrifice his life in order to raise the national product by, for example, by five percent, or any "realistic" goal limited, even if rational and available. People in general, he says, need a higher example, a belief, or even a beautiful dream, to survive and seek – regardless of whether it will ever come true.

Here I can add a third argument, outside politics, in the defense of utopia. I say that the experience of modern societies in the 20th century makes a clear difference, in the form of human interaction, the nature of people, and the meaning of happiness, between societies that see themselves in pursuit of "shared" and "supreme" goals, and between those that enshrine individualism and the finality of the system. This "theory" may be simplistic, but it claims that in the countries it has a common idea and aspiration (albeit a liberal struggle, "building socialism" in East Germany, or the case of Western European countries after World War II, it rebuilds and builds cities and achieves growth and prosperity). In these countries, interactions between people tend to be more "positive", as they become more negative and vicious as they approach the individual capitalist model (regardless of the freedoms enjoyed by this individual, or the degree of well-being). In the first case, there is a kind of ongoing "collusion" among members of society, in the sense that we are building something together, and our selves will improve together, and the effort we are making today is for all our children. In a neoliberal capitalist society, where this "political connection" does not exist, you see the "other" only as a potential competitor, either an enemy or a target of exploitation that you may benefit from, and treat the rise of others as a loss for you and an opportunity lost to you, and vice versa.

Utopia on Mars

American billionaire Elon Musk, who built the electric car maker Tsela and SpaceX to launch satellites and other interests, has an ambitious plan to send thousands of people to Mars, to build a city of one million people on the planet. Musk considers that the number of "million mariges" is necessary to ensure that the human "colony" there is transformed into a sufficiently self-produced society, so that humanity becomes, indeed, a genus that settles the planets. What's interesting is that Musk has a "realistic" timetable for his project, and he considers that his company's Falcon missiles are only steps on the path to that plan. He intends to send the first spaceship to Mars soon, by 2020, followed by a manned flight a few years later. Even the general plans of the massive missiles carrying a spaceship, carrying hundreds of people on a months-long journey between the two planets, were drawn (it resembles a 40-story skyscraper, several times stronger than any rocket ever produced by mankind to date, and possible - in the manner of rockets "Falcon". Recovering its parts after the fuel has been emptied and reused several times). Musk dreams that in two decades or less of the journeys, about every two years, fleets of these enormous spaceships will periodically launch, moving thousands of people from Earth to Mars and vice versa: the two planets converge and diverge according to orbit, and once every two years the Earth approaches Mars to The maximum, the "window" during which flights are launched.

The question here, of course, is "why?" Even if this project is technically feasible and adequately funded, what does it mean to spend hundreds of billions of dollars building a human settlement in the desert of Sam? People on earth will never benefit from the subject, the vast majority will not have the price of a "ticket" if they want to participate in the colonization of the galaxy, and the idea of sending resources from Mars to earth after extraction is not practical (even if gold and diamond mines are discovered there, the price of transporting them to earth will be greater than its value). Musk defended his project on the grounds that it was an "insurance policy" for humanity, so that if the earth was hit by a disaster, it would have wiped us all out (I don't understand what exactly we benefit from having people on another planet after we've been exterminated, or who cost Musk to ensure the continuity of the human race). Musk also says that the future for humanity is to become a trans-planetary species, and what it does is the first step along this path. In both cases, there is nothing to justify such a project today: Equipment that now costs billions may become cheap and easy after 100 years, and what you can't dream of doing with current technology will become available and normal in the future, there is no need to embark, with this sense of urgency and danger, by sending thousands to Mars, at an astronomical cost, and we know that Humanity will not end in the years to come and no meteor will turn towards us.

In a recent interview, Musk acknowledged that this ambition is economically unjustified or rational, but that he is engaged in it for "utopian" reasons. He said that human beings need such ambition, a reason to wake up every day, to "something that makes you dream" and "feel scares you alive", and that this is the real benefit, for the people of the earth, from the ambition of colonizing Mars. Musk, in this sense, is an example of the false solutions posed by the man steeped in capitalism: he feels alienated, cruel and hopeless, but instead of imagining a real and useful alternative, he truly responds to what he lacks – he puts forward a populist national slogan, or imagines Utopia. Racism ("the socialism of the fools"), or proposes a fictional project, which does not approach the political center, to colonize another planet (even if this project is done, how would Utopia be within the conditions of capitalism? Will governments, corporations and the laws of the market enter it and, like everything else, turn into a review of the power of the head Money and exploitation of human differences?).

The Roots of Villainy

At the beginning of the article, the lack of a "political example" and social behavior is linked not only to the "need of a dream" because humans (in elon Musk's way) "need a dream", it is easy to provide or at least simulate it. The idea is that when you accept capitalism as a dedicated reality, it will not change and no alternative can be found, under any justification (because it is the best possible system, because it is "normal" and fits "human nature", because it is better for me personally, etc.) it will become rational and logical for any individual to become a man of bastardness.

When you accept capitalism and its inevitability, you implicitly succumb to the idea that society will always be poor and rich, unemployed people, hungry and homeless people on the streets, and this "nature of the world" will not change. In this case, the first logical conclusion, for you as an individual, is to seek to be who is "up" and not "below". Those who own homes and well-being and live in the way of the developed world (or in it), not those who know homelessness, unemployment and the need, and live in the huts of the poor. In this world, every success of another individual, even the closest person to you, is literally an opportunity that has been lost to you and gone to others. In this context, you have to make an effort and go against reason and logic (or lie to yourself) so that you are not envious and hateful to others. These "rules" are not limited to competing with strangers, by the way, but they leak into everything from your self-perception, to aesthetics and the meaning of happiness, to the concept of marriage, to family relationships.

Even for the most fortunate of us — those who have lucrative capitalism jobs and guarantee their work and basic needs — you accept that this system you live in is the end of the unescaped (boring office life, constant anxiety about losing everything, compromises and even daily humiliations and humiliations). You retire and die. On the sidelines: From a recent report on Japan, it seems that the new Japanese generation is not spending as much as before on expensive cars, homes or even clothes, but rather saves, saves and saves exclusively on vacation and travel (and joins, in legions, the tens of millions of Western tourists who tour each A place worth shooting in the world, from the Venetian squares to the coast of Patagonia). The report says that the reason is that this generation does not need "things" but lacks "experience", and their vacation is a way to buy them. What's sad here is that you have to go to the world tourism industry to feel like you're "alive"; Wretched, but closer to cultures and civilizations, in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta.


On the same approach to "escape", in a world without utopia, there are large numbers of films and series depicting the end of the world, and in recent years (especially after the 2008 economic crisis) it has increased significantly. What's nice is that these products, which are enthusiastically received by the Western public, are not seen by many people as a horror film, but rather by their enthusiasm, a hidden desire to achieve these scenarios (meaning that the only way to escape the life I live is through a natural disaster. With a planet or a zombie virus, it destroys everything, brings society back to the point of discovery, and opens up all possibilities).

Many people are obviously asking about the alternative to capitalism and the absence of any practical model, or concrete perception, to explain to us how this "better" world demanded by dreamers will be, an argument often made to demonstrate the inevitability of the capitalist system. I think that Alain Badio was one of the two issues, between the proliferation films about the end of the world and the absence of alternative conceptions of the existing system. The problem is in dominance, the philosopher pushes, not in the lack of imagination or the impossibility of alternatives. Look at all these horrible films, he says, and compare them to the lack of thinking of a real system different: it has become much easier for us, in the age of domination, to imagine the end of the world than to imagine a world without capitalism.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Hafiz Muhammad Adnan


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