....... a new exhibition at the British Library
Out of this World
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Many, many thanks to Tom and Brian for such a fantastic, almost-entirely-glitch-free, skype performance from Washington DC. It was very stimulating. Too much to take in and digest in one sitting. The whole discussion of cyberutopias and their dystopian potential is clearly becoming more complex with each passing year.
I, personally, was interested in how different their approach was from mine. They were much more focussed on politics (on the whole) than I have been - but then Brian summed it all up with his comments about Utopia as a 'process rather than a place'. That is indeed a very familiar theme throughout the module - and I think that although many of the utopias we have studied may have failed in some ways or seemed impossible in others (whether ethically, logically or in material practice) - as a process they were critical in sustaining creative new ideas for new futures. Perhaps to see the political potential of Utopia you have to live in it, it has to be in your own present and future and not in the past. Read more!
1. the ideas of the three critics of utopia, their relationship to each other and the context of their thought.
2. The extent to which other modern (late nineteenth century) utopian texts were engaging in similar ideas. The use of force, the limits of logic and reason (More, Swift, Butler ...), varieties of socialism, problems with historicism (Morris after all goes 'backwards' into the future, so does Butler) and so on.
3. Whether utopias were guilty as charged ...around the three topics of historicism, negative liberty (or pluralism) and totalitarian ideology.
4. Finally we used Popper especially, but also Arendt, to think critically about comparative history. The rejection of diachronic history (and preference for synchronic history) is central to Popper's liberal pluralism - it has swept all before it? One thing to follow up is the idea that Popper was drawing on new scientific methods (Einstein's overturning of Newtonian physics) and transferring this relativism into the social sciences and humanities (cf role of new science in More, Bacon or Butler's utopian methods).
5. All of this produced quite a lot of discussion about whether either More or Morris fitted into the anti-utopian conception of Utopia, or not.
Image from Don Sull's blog: Karl Popper's experimental theory Read more!
Monday, 14 March 2011
I was struck by slide 27 of Tom's digital utopias presentation by the similarity between the organic, non-hierarchical, architecture of the web and the organic plan of New Earswick.
The link is directly through humanist inspired architecture and especially the work of Christopher Alexander - an architect and writer whose works were influential in the development of computer architectures and programming languages in the 1960s and 1970s. Without him perhaps there would be no wikis - so wikipedia seems like the most appropriate source here:
Friday, 11 March 2011
BEFORE class please consider the following:
What features of the internet and our use of it might be said to have been created as a result of utopian values?
- In relation to education and science?
- In relation to property?
- In relation to the family and government?
DURING class please be prepared to discuss:
- How does the virtual revolution inform our understanding of the relationship between utopia and dystopia?
If you click on the label 'digital utopias' in the right hand column of this blog you will find many fascinating resources.
Once again Tom Glaisyer has worked his magic with more links and an updated list, many of contemporary relevance:
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace: https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html
The Dot-Communist Manifesto: http://emoglen.law.columbia.edu/my_pubs/dcm.html
The Right to Read, Richard Stallman: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html
Malcolm Gladwell, Why the revolution will not be tweeted: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell
Patrick Meier responding to Gladwell
part one: http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/gladwell-newyorker/
part two: http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/gladwell-part2/
Rasmus Nielsen responding to Gladwell, http://bit.ly/hWwVkP
Tom Glaisyer and Shawn Powers, For Middle East democracy, send in the geeks
The Net Delusion, Evgeny Morozov: http://www.amazon.com/Net-Delusion-Dark-Internet-Freedom/dp/1586488740
Jaron Lanier, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307269647
Michael Wesch, The Machine is using us,
& an Anthropological Introduction to Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU
Eben Moglen's, Freedom in the Cloud talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOEMv0S8AcA
and transcript http://bit.ly/dU3Mkp
(This talk inspired the Freedom box, http://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox
and Diaspora https://joindiaspora.com/)
Tools (websites of)
Open WRT, http://openwrt.org/
Open BTS, http://openbts.sourceforge.net/
TOR Server, http://www.torproject.org/
Mesh Potato, http://www.villagetelco.org/about/mesh-potato/
DIY GSM, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/18/gsm_hacking/
Jessica Barr, Willing to Know God. Dreamers and Visionaries in the Later Middle Ages (2010) Read more!
Monday, 28 February 2011
Hobsbawm on utopian socialists in How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism 1840-2011
and comments on Morris and more.
Sunday, 27 February 2011
BBC4 are broadcasting a special season of programmes and debates on this theme. They include a series of Harvard lectures by Michael Sandel. This week he looked at the work of the influential modern political philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) to ask:
What's a fair start?
Much of it dealt with the question at the heart of the passage we read from Bellamy's Looking Backward: how should society reward labour and encourage it? Should we be rewarded for the quality of our work, for the effort/time we put into it or simply for trying our best? Utopian communities had clearly struggled with this. Bellamy's answer was to design a system which was NOT a meritocracy. Instead it was a society in which people could develop according to their diverse aptitudes but would be rewarded equally since all would try their best out of honour and love of nation (the ultimate brotherhood).
'Aptitudes' (and lifelong education) were also at the heart of the intended reforms of the state education system in Britain after WWII in the Butler Act of 1944. However only part of the intended system was ever put into practise. (see picture here: http://yorkutopias.blogspot.com/2010/03/education-after-butler-act-1944.html)
Next Tuesday Sandel's lecture is on Aristotle and the Good Citizen Read more!
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
On the distinction (or otherwise) between socialisms and utopianisms
Samuel Haber, The Nightmare and the Dream: Edward Bellamy and the Travails of Socialist Thought
He concludes: "Socialism may even come to America but - to paraphrase an American politician and wit - if it comes to America it will most likely be called anti-socialism." (p. 440) Read more!
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Sunday, 20 February 2011
[i]; Jenkins, Lloyd, “Fourierism, Colonization and Discourses of Associative Emigration”, Area, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp 84-91, p 86
Friday, 18 February 2011
Thursday, 17 February 2011
For readers of the blog who are not taking the module. Here is a copy of my reading lists:
Utopias Module Booklet: Reading lists and assignments.
They are highly selective and not intended to be comprehensive. I would welcome further suggestions, corrections etc.
Please cite me (Sarah Rees Jones, University of York) if you use them. At the same time I would like to acknowledge the help I have received from Edward James (on science fiction and American utopias) and from Tom Glaisyer (on digital utopias).
My own interest is in later medieval civic culture as a context out of which utopia grows. I published an article called ‘Thomas More’s utopia and medieval London’ in Pragmatic Utopias (Cambridge University Press, 2001) edited by myself and Rosemary Horrox. This has just been reprinted in paperback and is also available, I think, as an e-book. Other papers for this project are in draft form only.
I have just applied for sabbatical leave to turn this article/idea into a book, provisionally entitled ‘Utopia, a gift from the Middle Ages to the future’. *If* I get the sabbatical leave I will be delighted with a capital D! :D
Finally I want to acknowledge the students. York's students are great! This year's lot are hiding from the blog a little. But they are still a great source of inspiration. Read more!
BBC Radio 4's 'In Our Time' has a discussion of
Rousseau, The Social Contract
Various authors (Claeys, Manuels, Kumar) discuss Rousseau's relationship to the utopian tradition. So even though this is not one of our set texts if would make useful listening for anybody interested in free will/law or the individual and society. You can listen again on the BBC website or download as a podcast.
Or you can look him up on the Stanford Philosophy site.
Even in the 16th century Montaigne was beginning to reassess the relationship between the Old and New world and consider some of the new lessons that 'old' peoples could learn from 'new' (see readings for week 5 on 'dreaming').
This post is an updated version of an original post in 2008.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
The blue circles represent the key (and always present?) elements of utopian imagination – each one differently emphasized by different authors.
At the centre: Humanity and Nature (Human Nature?)
and then (in a reflexive relationship with the centre and with each other):
- Sex/ Reproduction
- Work, Wealth, Property
- Education, Conversation/Communication, Law
- Philosophy, Science
The red circles represent areas of criticism drawn from historical experience (also differently emphasised by different authors.
And is the object the self? Or the self in society? Or society?
This is just my version - what is yours? Read more!
Monday, 14 February 2011
I forgot to tell the story of Francis Bacon's strange death - as a result of experimenting with the refrigeration of a chicken (according to Aubrey's Brief Lives - if this is to be believed).
For this, at least, let Wikipedia be our guide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon#Death Read more!
Friday, 11 February 2011
6/1 Renaissance neo-Platonism and the invention of a genre: Campanella, Bacon, Swift
6/2 Utopia in the Old World: socialists and utopians.
7/1 Utopia and America.
7/2 Utopia and the making of modernity: Bellamy and Butler. Thursday 24 Feb 14.15
8/1 – reading week – essays due in this week.
Part Three: Utopias and their critics in Contemporary History
8/2 Modernism and the construction of Utopia (?New Earswick)
9/1 Anti-utopianism and the ‘end of history’.
9/2 Revision Class
10/1 Digital Utopias and Utopia Reborn? Read more!
Thursday, 10 February 2011
This article attempts to poke fun at our society and the perils that lay in front of it if we continue along our current path.
It's very short and made me laugh, it also has the word utopia in the title which is why i felt it relevant.
http://whatmatters.mckinseydigital.com/geopolitics/dystopia-2040-a-peace-worse-than-war Read more!
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Lucy Sargisson just introduced herself as a reader of this blog. She is currently writing a book about contemporary utopianism and has encouraged us to read her publications (which can be made available electronically). Her website is here:
Lucy Sargisson, University of Nottingham
Lucy's expertise at the opposite end of the historical spectrum from mine - which is great - very useful for us!
For example, see here:
Utopian Bodies and the Politics of Transgression Read more!
So I thought James' presentation on similarities and differences between Plato and More and Morris was excellent, really excellent - and I will leave him to decide whether to post it here or not.
My comment was really to try and show how Plato's ideas were connected to each other and sustained a single narrative - they were not just comments on random topics - and to ask if M&M made similar connections and sustained narratives - or not - or different ones.
Plato starts with men and women but is using that 'natural' binary not only to explore the nature of nature but also to introduce the importance of dialectic (building a philosophical binary on an allegedly natural one). Though perhaps, he suggests, the only natural difference is in the act of reproduction. Interesting, isn't it, how many philsophies and religions we encounter start with the binary of sex? (Giles Constable, a medievalist, wrote the prevalence about binaries and trilogies in his survey of medieval ideas about social order.)
Having started off with male/female binaries as a way of exploring dialectic - Plato/Socrates then builds systematically on this by addressing education, reproduction, law and so on - all the social elements which will sustain this naturally based dialectical philosophy into a proper foundations for the ultimately best form of philosophy (his discussion of knowledge and opinion) ending up with his famous metaphor of the cave and enlightenment.
Now I am no Plato expert - this is just my reading of the patterns the text creates - but are there similar or different patterns in M&M? We also talked about a lot of other things (historical coincidence for example in the situation of different authors - see Baumann).
This week - in the difficult reading by Jameson and Marin - we will find other ideas about how imagination (dreaming) works in utopias and can be productive - in more complicated and also less structured relationships between things than just binaries (or dialectic). Read more!
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Here are some more possible questions for practice essays. This year's paper has to have 10 questions, but you still attempt two over two days. Enjoy!
1. Is Thomas More’s Utopia a work of utopian fiction?
2. “More's island is a cooperative subsistence economy; Bacon's a specialised industrial economy.” (Raymond Williams, 1978) To what extent do all utopias swing between these two extremes?
3. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more ... I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold the dwelling of God is with men ... He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall mourning nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away... And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (New Testament, Revelation 21: 1-5). Assess the contribution to the utopian tradition of Judeo/Christian beliefs in the power of revelation.
4. Do you agree that all proper utopias are architopias
5. Compare and contrast More and Morris’s treatment of education and the family in Utopia and News from Nowhere.
6. Have critics exaggerated the influence of Plato on later utopian writing?
7. Compare and contrast More and Morris’s engagement with contemporary forms of government in Utopia and News from Nowhere.
8. To what extent is it true either that More was seeking to escape from, or that Morris was seeking to escape to, the Middle Ages?
9. To what extent are utopias a product of European expectation, discovery and exploitation of the non-European world?
10. Is human nature perfected by society, or corrupted by it? Discuss in relation to at least two utopias.
11. Are all utopias also science fictions?
12. Can utopia be realised? Read more!
Monday, 7 February 2011
Saturday, 5 February 2011
There was a film on BBC last night (link below), called Perfect Creature.
I havent watched it, but the description is as follows:
"Horror set in a world which genetic experiments have created an advanced species of human. All is well, until one is born who threatens the peace."
Im not sure if it links to anything, as I havent seen it yet, but from the description it sounds like it could link to/draw comparisons with sci-fi dystopian writing, (for example, Daniel Keyes - 'Flowers of Algernon', Olaf Stapledon - First and Last Men. ectect).
It Could also link to issues in the film 'The Island and in 'Never Let Me Go' by Isiguro? (i'm trying not to give away the stories in these here if you havn't seen/read them!!).
Just a thought for later in your term?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00pccvs/Perfect_Creature/ Read more!
Friday, 4 February 2011
After our brief discussion of 'Burning Man' today I decided to look into it a bit further and try to determine whether it is a genuine attempt to create a utopian community or just an excuse to... well, you know. Contrary to the common trend of festival-goers, I got the impression that these people were sincerely trying to achieve some sort of social progress or spirituality- as opposed to the excessive intoxication that is now dogma at all other festivals. Their mission statement reads like a Utopian check-list: