Imagining the Future   /   Spring 2008   /    Reviews

Archaeologies of the Future

The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions Fredric Jameson

Archaeologies of the Future is a two-part volume in which Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson presents a new, 233-page study of Utopia—which he unfailingly capitalizes—alongside twelve previously published essays on the subject. Reaching from Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) to Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1990s Mars nov- els, Part One (the new material on which I focus) is a rich meditation about how science fiction, its aliens, and its impos- sible worlds remain closely tied to his- tory. While a sharper overarching thesis has eluded my reading, it may be that the double negation of Jameson’s slogan, “anti-anti-Utopianism” (xvi), inherently precludes an overt central claim.

Jameson’s strength is his ability to encapsulate paradox. Even in the introduction, we are faced with the formal dilemma of how works that posit the end of history can offer any usable historical impulses, how works which aim to resolve all political differences can continue to be in any sense political, how texts designed to overcome the needs of the body can remain materialistic, and how visions of the “epoch of rest” (Morris) can energize and compel us to action.

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