Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Anti-utopianism and comparative history.

A really good discussion (and excellent presentations) in class last week.

We considered:

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

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