Writing against the grain of history, Jacoby reexamines the anti-utopian mindset and identifies how utopian thought came to be regarded with great suspicion. He offers stinging critiques of the influential liberal and anti-utopian theorists Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, and Karl Popper, arguing that these thinkers mistakenly equate utopianism with totalitarianism. The reputation of utopian thought has also suffered from the failures of what Jacoby terms the blueprint-utopian tradition and its oppressive emphasis on detailing all aspects of everyday life and providing fantastic images of the future. In contrast, the iconoclastic utopians, like those who follow the Old Testament prohibition against graven images, resist both the blueprinters' obsession with detail and the modern seduction of images. Jacoby suggests that by learning from the spirit of iconoclastic utopians, we open ourselves to more imaginative ideas of the future.
|Publisher:||Columbia University Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
About the Author
Russell Jacoby is a professor of history and education at UCLA and the author of several books of history, politics, and cultural criticism, including The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in the Age of Apathy, Dogmatic Wisdom: How the Culture Wars Divert Education and Distract America, and The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. He also reviews books for The Nation, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and other publications.
Read an Excerpt
Utopian thinking consists of more than daydreams and doodles. It emerges out of and returns to contemporary political realities. As I see it, this contradiction defines the utopian project: it partakes at once of the limited choices of the day and the unlimited possibilities of the morrow. It straddles two time zones: the one we inhabit now and the one that might exist in the future. Nor is this unusual in the history of utopianism. At least since More's Utopia, contemporary crises motivate the utopian author who dreams of another world.
Table of Contents
|1||An Anarchic Breeze||1|
|2||On Anti-Utopianism: More or Less||37|
|3||To Shake the World off Its Hinges||83|
|4||A Longing That Cannot Be Uttered||113|
What People are Saying About This
Like most of Jacoby's work, Picture Imperfect is sui generis. It is an erudite polemic, spirited and consistently engaging. The writing is epigrammatic and the scholarship broad-ranging.
Russell Jacoby challenges the all too common wisdom that utopian dreams breed dystopian political nightmares. His passionate brief for a distinctively non-totalitarian strand of utopian thought indicts a contemporary failure of imagination. Writing on the sharp edge of the divide between utopians and anti-utopian liberals, he cuts through much of the pretense of a generation of political philosophers who famously regarded passionate hope and totalitarian genocide as issuing from the same source. His spirited, indeed utopian essay, restores the "anarchic breeze" that informed those iconoclastic thinkers for whom neglected, spurned, and new ideas were not anathema.