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In an

influential study Karl Mannheim considers "utopia" precisely that


complex of energies that work for change in society, as opposed to
"ideology," which he considers (following the Marxist tradition of
ideology as false consciousness) as the complex of energies acting to
preserve and support the existing order of things. P.3

Indeed, despite the strongly utopian


orientation of Marxism, Marxist critics from the very beginning have
consistently attempted to distance themselves from the more naive
versions of utopian thought. The Ur-text of this project is Socialism:
From Utopia to Science, where Friedrich Engels contrasts the
"scientific" approach of Marxism with the unscientific approaches of
previous schools like the French utopian socialists. P.4

Science allows no
retreating in time, and insists on contemplating the consequences of
actions. In our time the utopian impulse has been largely replaced by
dystopian projections of disastrous current trends. (Scholes and
Rabkin 174)5

nticipating many of the


works of dystopian fiction, Nietzsche strikes out against the growing
mechanization of life brought about by the epistemological
imperialism of science, deriding science as a new form of religion,
worshipping p. 7

And, far from being escapist and disconnected from reality,


these texts tend to participate in reality in an active and productive
way. More's book was written at a time of great social and political
change and turmoil; it attempted to intervene in its contemporary
historical moment by indicating desirable directions that these changes

might take. Bellamy's text participated in his own political activism


and served as an inspiration for his Nationalist Party. And the texts
of recent writers like Le Guin and Callenbach arise directly from the
leftist political activism of the sixties and early seventies.

utopianism with R. N. Berki's definition of


utopia as an "ideal that is incapable of realization ... not reality but
the mere fruit of imagination" (221).

Jameson's suggestion that modern


utopian thought functions as "a stubborn negation of all that is";

Indeed, much of the history of recent utopian thought can be read


as a gradual shift from utopian to dystopian emphases, while utopian
thought itself has come more and more to be seen as escapist or even
reactionary.

Not
only is one man's utopia another man's dystopia, but utopian visions
of an ideal society often inherently suggest a criticism of the current
order of things as nonideaJ, while dystopian warnings of the dangers
of "bad" utopias still allow for the possibility of "good" utopias,
especially since dystopian societies are generally more or less thinly
veiled refigurations of a situation that already exists in reality. !!!!!!!!!!!!

Moreover, dystopian critiques of existing systems would be pointless


unless a better system appeared conceivable.

One might, in fact, see


dystopian and utopian visions not as fundamentally opposed but as
very much part of the same project.

As Mark Hillegas notes, the


modern turn to literary visions of "the future as nightmare" is "one of
the most revealing indexes to the anxieties of our age" (3).

While there have been specific cases of localized resurgences in


utopian literature (especially among feminist writers and other leftist
writers inspired by the political activism of the 1960s), twentiethcentury
literature has generally envisioned utopia as either impossible
or undesirable.

Powered by the horrors of two world wars, the grisly


excesses of totalitarian regimes in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia,
and the specter of global nuclear holocaust, "negative" texts like We,
Brave New World, and 1984 have been far more prominent in modern
literature than the positive utopias of earlier centuries.

dystopian fictions are typically set in places or


times far distant from the author's own, but it is usually clear that the
real referents of dystopian fictions are generally quite concrete and
near-at-hand. We is set in an undisclosed location a thousand years in
the future, but it is very much about certain ominous trends that

The principal technique of dystopian fiction is defamiliarization:


by focusing their critiques of society on spatially or temporally distant
settings, dystopian fictions provide fresh perspectives on problematic
social and political practices that might otherwise be taken for granted
or considered natural and inevitable. This exploration of alternative
perspectives obviously recalls the technique

Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451). Is discussed

As Gary Saul Morson emphasizes, dystopian (he

uses the term "anti-utopia") literature is in essence a parodic "antigenre";


by its very nature dystopian literature is intended as a parody
of utopian literature.

only preface read.

Many critics consider dystopian fiction as a pop


culture genre roughly in the same category as science fiction; their
dismissal of the genre can thus be partially attributed to an elitist
rejection of popular culture. Other critics see dystopian fiction as a
didactic and utilitarian category that frequently pays little attention to
aesthetic form or technique. Postscript booker

The dystopian
impulse in modern literature is confined neither to the marginal pop
cultural realm of science fiction nor to texts that are little more than
thinly veiled political tracts.

At the
same time, dystopian fiction does have strong ties to science fiction,
just as it resonates with numerous politically motivated critiques of
modern society. The dystopian genre thus serves as a locus for
valuable dialogues among literature, popular culture, and social
criticism that indicates the value of considering these discourses
together and potentially sheds new light on all of them.

All art is political, insists Brecht, and the question


is simply whether art attacks existing structures of power or refuses
such attacks and thereby contributes to the continuation of those
structures: "Thus for art to be 'unpolitical' means only to ally itself
with the 'ruling' group" (196).
But Brecht himself insists on

Dystopian thought does not


disable utopian thought, but merely acts as a healthy opposing voice
that helps prevent utopian thought from going stale.

Dystopian thought can serve as a valuable corrective


to this tendency, and therefore should be thought of as working with
rather than against utopian thought.