Utopia – What magical place

Ah love, could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits – and then
Remold it, nearer to the Heart’s Desire! 

(Omar Khayyam)

Utopia is the expression of what is missing, of the experience of lack in any given society. (Levitas, 2013)

Utopia. What a magical place.

When thinking of utopia one usually thinks of something abstract, unattainable. Well, they are mostly right, but utopian humanists and scholars like Thomas More, Ernst Bloch and Ruth Levitas have based their lifetime studies to demonstrate that yes, Utopia is 100% attainable (in the real world).

Ernst Bloch, modern pioneer of utopian studies, gives us two terms to focus on: Abstract Utopia and Concrete Utopia. While the former points to a wishful, hence unattainable concept, the latter looks like a more feasible one; a not yet determined world coming together thanks to a long process of co-operation between people (what is possible but is Not Yet). Whilst an abstract utopia is more likely to be a plain expression of the desire for a better way of being (Levitas, 2011), a certain realisation of concrete utopia can be found in last century’s biggest Dictatorships and Totalitarianism like Fascism and Nazism, where nations like Italy and Germany saw these plans taking concrete shape.

Ruth Levitas in her book “The Concept of Utopia (2011)” suggests how Utopia is a desire to fulfil; A desire for a better way of being and living.  Then not just a dream to be enjoyed, but also a vision to be pursued. Yet the very term utopia suggests to most people that this dream of the good life is an impossible dream – an escapist fantasy, at best a pleasant but pointless entertainment. Those utopians who seek to make their dreams come true are deemed to be hopelessly unrealistic, or worse, actively dangerous.

Nonetheless, it is also true that wishing for a far-fetched utopia is like demanding the impossible.

There are also people (and communities) that want their wishes to come true no matter what. This is the case of the Capital of Brazil, Brasilia. Here, politicians literally built up their own utopian city to separate themselves from average population. This detailed “mechanisms for enacting change” are called utopian blueprints. Here, the future is mapped out in inches and minutes (Jacoby, 2007) and ideals are moulded in tangible, real worlds.  In this case, architecture, like art, becomes both an “act of imagination” and a true space of action that possesses the potential to change, to point toward a different world, but also to create a new reality, or simply this: to do something (Jalving,2010).

Another example of tangible utopian reality can be found in intentional communities, where masses of like-minded people gather to start living by their own rules in order to achieve a common utopian dream(s). Often, the withdrawal involves a move from urban space to more rural areas. There, their ideals can be realised on a small scale (Meijering, 2007).

 

Bibliography

Jacoby, R. (2007). Picture imperfect. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jalving, C. (2011). Arken – the place and the art. Penn State University Press.

Khayyam, O. and FitzGerald, E. (1859). Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. London: George Bell and sons.

Levitas, R. (2011). The concept of Utopia. Witney: Peter Lang.

Levitas, R. (2013). Utopia as method. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Meijering, L., van Hoven, B. and Huigen, P. (2006). Intentional Communities in Rural Spaces. Groningen, the Netherlands: Gregory Ashworth, Peter Groote, Tialda Haartsen.

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