Friendship and Postmodern Utopianism

Leela Gandhi

Abstract

Believers insist that the ghost of utopianism returned to Europe in May 1968, and that it has been haunting the ruins of ‘the political’ ever since. This paper is written in the spirit of belief. It has two claims: first, and incidentally, that utopianism—namely, a politics of alternatives poised at the limits of thought and being, epistemology and ontology—is both expedient and inevitable in regard to a terrain where, à la Foucault, power is everywhere, ‘immanent to the social field, distributed through the brains and bodies of citizens’; and second, and here is the crux of my argument, the movement in our time from nihilism to utopianism has required a careful renegotiation with ideas of community, communication, sociability, conatus. This process, most apparent within contemporary postmodernism, I would like to call, after Derrida, the politics of friendship. The rest of this paper is an attempt to describe the restless itinerary of such a politics, which entails, in the main, postmodernism’s departure from the cult of the hybrid subject toward a non-communitarian understanding of community.

Keywords

utopianism; community; sociability; contemporary postmodernism

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