So, a distinction needs to be made between the dystopian and the Apocalyptic because these categories refer to different and even opposed futuristic scenarios.
The end of the world or Apocalypse typically brings about the collapse of order; dystopia, on the other hand, envisions a sinister perfection of order. In the most basic political terms, dystopia is a nightmare of authoritarian or totalitarian rule, while the end of the world is a nightmare of anarchy. (There is also the currently less fashionable kind of political dream known as utopia.) What the dystopian and the apocalyptic modes have in common is simply that they imagine our world changed, for the worse, almost beyond recognition.
In general, fantasies of a social situation radically simplified and ennobled by the imperative of survival—a life in which good-versus-evil is all that could be said to remain of either politics or morality—dominate contemporary visions of the end of the world.
Environmental dystopias may initially appear to represent an entirely new cultural fear—that of ecological collapse—but they eventually reveal that they share the obsessions of ‘traditional’ dystopias—a monolithic organisation exerting super-normal controls over an unwilling or ignorant populace.
Political radicals have been unable to come up with a fully realized alternative to the status quo. Dystopias are much easier to conceive than utopias—after all, who doesn’t oppose dictatorship and forced sterilization? Devising a plausible non-market economy is much more challenging.
Images of dystopia are necessarily reflections of their time. If this is a reflection of our cultural fears, then the contemporary environmentalists who would like the government to involve itself more and more in our individual choices have a much tougher task ahead of them than current opinion polls suggest.
We want organizers and movement builders to be able to claim the vast space of possibility, to be birthing visionary stories. Using their everyday realities and experiences of changing the world, they can form the foundation of the fantastic, and, we hope, build a future where the fantastic liberates the mundane.
Change happens at root on an everyday basis, and in our everyday lives we need fun to keep us energized and hopeful. For many, the daily suffering experienced under capitalism, and the fight against it, are only bearable by envisioning, and working toward, a humane society. Coming together in order to imagine a better world taps into our deep desire for excitement, thrills, and inspiration while also exposing how the ways capitalism claims to fulfill these desires are a false promise. Such envisioning happens best, in my view, during strategic use of the everyday.
__Berg, C. (2008). ‘Goddamn You All to Hell!’: The Revealing Politics of Dystopian Movies. Institute of Public Affairs Review: A Quarterly Review of Politics and Public Affairs, The, 60(1), 38.
__Boggs, Carl (1977). ‘Revolutionary Process, Political Strategy, and the Dilemma of Power’, Theory and Society, 4(3), 359-393.
__Kunkel, B. (2008). Dystopia and the End of Politics. Dissent, 55(4), 89-98.
__Riccio, A. (2017). Open utopia: a horizon for left unity. Oregon State University.
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