So said Ernst Bloch

July 27, 2010

For a long time uptopias appeared exclusively as social utopias: dreams of a better life. The title of Thomas More’s books is De optima statu rei publicae deque nova insula Utopia, or On the Best Kind of State and the New Island Utopia. The ‘optima res publica’–the best state–is set by More as a goal. In other words, there is a transformation of the world to the greatest possible realization of happiness, of social happiness. Nor is it he case that the utopias were without an ‘itinerary’ or ‘time schedule.’ With regard to tehir content, utopias are dependent on social conditions. Thomas More, who lived during the period when British imperialism was beginning during the Elizabethan period, set up liberal conditions for the feeling among his islanders. One hundered years later, during the time of Philip II and the Spanish dominations of Italy, during the atmosphere of the Galileo Trial, Campanella conceived a countermodel to freedom in his Sun State. He said that all conditions could only be brought to order if the greatest possible order reigned, if everything is ‘patched up,’ as the extremely well-known expression puts it. But the goal of More and Camapanella was always the realm of conscoius dreaming, one that is more or less objectively founded or at least founded in the dream and not the completely senseless realm of daydreaming of a better life. In addition, the technological utopias made their first imprint in Camanella’s work and them most clearly in Bacon’s Nova Atlantis. His ‘Templum Salomonis’ is the anticipation of a completed Technical University, in which there are monstrous inventions, a complete programme of inventions.

Yet there is a still much oler level of utopias that we should not forget, that we lease of all should not forget–the fairy tale. The fairy tale is not only filled with social utopia, in other words, with the utopia of the better life and justice, but it is also filled with technological utopia, most of all in the oriental fairy tales. In the fairy tale, ‘The Magic Horse,’ from the Arabian Nights, there is even a level that controls the up and down of he magic horse–this is a ‘helicopter.’ One can read the Arabian Nights in many places as a manual for inventions. Bacon addressed this and then set himself off from the fairy tale by saying that what he means, the real magic, relates to the oldest wish-images of the fairy tale as the deeds of Alexander relate to the deeds of King Arthur’s Round Table. Thus, the content of the utopian changes according to the social situation.