Resources for Hope: Rediscovering the Post-Capitalist Horizon
In our contemporary period of crisis and flux, the ability to envisage and struggle for better modes of social being—i.e. utopianism—has seemingly never been more urgent, or more difficult. In this context, this thesis turns to the Marxist utopian tradition as a key resource for political hope, demonstrating both what was lost in the repudiation of Marxism and socialism at the ‘end of history,’ and identifying emergent forms of post-capitalist utopian desire within contemporary culture. Chapter 1 sets out the theoretical and methodological framework of the thesis, bringing together a Gramscian approach to cultural analysis with Ernst Bloch’s expansive understanding of utopianism as a ubiquitous aspect of the social world, rooted in a view of historical materialism as itself a utopian methodology and tradition. On this approach, utopia becomes a lens for viewing culture, the cultural terrain suddenly animated by utopian currents, desires, and impulses. Chapters 2 and 3 give historical background for thinking (with) Marxist utopianism today: first, tracing the development of neoliberal and anti-communist common sense over the twentieth century, a successful ‘war of utopia’ culminating in the exile of Marxist utopianism from the social imaginary at the ‘end of history’; then revisiting Marxist socialist history, highlighting both the general utopian power of the existence of the socialist horizon, and the expansive heterogeneity of that horizon, exploring, in particular, Marxist visions of emancipated gender and sexual relations, and its decolonial and ecological currents. Chapters 4-6 utilise the thesis’ utopian optic to investigate the contemporary cultural and imaginative landscape, finding emergent forms of post-capitalist desire despite the weakness and fragmentation of contemporary left politics. Chapter 4 finds nascent anti-systemic and ecosocialist potential in today’s ‘end of the world’ structure of feeling; chapter 5 identifies, across the otherwise unrelated moments of new age trends and new romance texts, proto-socialist desires to transcend individualism; and chapter 6 investigates the impasses and utopian possibilities in the recent return of the socialist imaginary. Together, these constellations demonstrate not only the existence of post-capitalist utopian desire today, but also that this desire rests on quite simple visions of the good life—highlighting the loss of capitalism’s utopian signification in its contemporary crisis-ridden form, rarely any longer even feigning responsibility for the social good. Chapter 7 concludes by arguing that despite current objective conditions that often feel hopeless, there is good reason to maintain ‘militant optimism' today.