On "Utopianism"

Carrol Cox cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Tue Jul 11 12:59:59 MDT 1995


    Marx and Engels regularly used "utopianism" in one pejorative sense or
another, and I think that they had good reason to, for in almost any sense in
which it is used it points toward abstract schema in "the mind"--and "the mind"
is inherently totalitarian (I dominate completely the contents of my thinking).
    More importantly, allowing the legitimacy of utopian thinking (or even
vocabulary) cuts off one crucial aspect of the critique of capitalism. The fact
is that the capitalism regularly referred to in the editorial pages of the WSJ
is a utopia having very little resemblance of the world as it exists, and that
utopianism works to endlessly justify capitalism regardless of its results:
that is, everytime some horror is contemplated, the capitalist apologist will
say, that wouldn't happen if we had real capitalism, as in today's issue of the
Wall St. Journall, the op-ed column Business World by Tim W. Ferguson. He is
speaking of the deficit and writes: "Even at lower interest rates, debt (and
the tax burden it implies) is a progressively heavier drag on the economy's
ability to expand at the rate it must to open up affluence to the masses."

    You get it, the reason everyone is affluent is because we don't yet have
real capitalism, all those "liberals" stand between us and real (i.e., ideal or
utopian) capitalism. And since, of course, there will always be government
policies which don't correspond to that Platonic ideal of capitalism, then we
can always defend capitalism by arguing that real capitalism has not had a
chance yet to prove itself.

    There must be ways we can talk about the future without hauling in
blueprints in the brain or abstract utopias. One criteria, crudely put, might
be that one should never posit any goal, large or small, in independence from
the concrete modes of struggle which will get us from her to there.
        Carrol Cox


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