Utopia poses a question. Not simply in the sense of a problem to be resolved and at the same time eliminated . . . but in the sense that, within the economy of the human condition, utopia, the aim of social alterity-of all social otherness-is ceaselessly being reborn, coming back to life despite all the blows rained down upon it, as if human resistance had taken up residence within it. For the French philosopher Miguel Abensour, the fictional genre of utopia has provided thinkers and artists a fertile ground to explore for the past 500 years, both as a way to imagine new emancipatory practices of shared existence and as a tyrannical imposition of power. Here, Abensours project is to examine the idea of utopia in two different but powerful moments in its trajectory: first, utopias beginning, when Thomas More sought a path for justice through a world in transformation, and second, when utopia faced its greatest danger, the moment that Walter Benjamin called catastrophe.
Miguel Abensour is a French philosopher best known for his influence in shepherding the reception of the Frankfurt School in France. He has written several works on utopia, including L'homme est un animal utopique and most recently L'histoire de l'utopie et le destin de sa critique. Raymond N. MacKenzie is professor of English at the University of St. Thomas.