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Title: The ends of utopian thinking : Marx, Adorno, Bloch
Author: Rismal, Nina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 5484
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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My dissertation is concerned with utopian thinking in Critical Theory. It examines the changing conceptions of radically different social orders held by the associates of the Frankfurt School. Its aim is to investigate utopian thinking as a theoretical tool of a system of thought that is oriented towards social transformation. To bring about social transformation was the explicit objective of the Frankfurt School. And yet, as my dissertation demonstrates, some of the key member of the Frankfurt School discarded precisely this utopian tool. This rejection of utopian thinking is one of the central – but also one of the most problematic – aspects of Critical Theory. It goes back to the writings of Marx himself and culminates in the works of Theodor W. Adorno, specifically in his ‘Utopieverbot’ (prohibition of envisaging a utopian society). I argue that this Utopieverbot facilitated the disappearance of utopian thinking in Critical Theory, and furthermore, that it brought this system of thought to a standstill. In addition to the dissolution of utopian thinking my dissertation examines also its potential resuscitation. The foremost defender of utopian thinking I investigate is Ernst Bloch, a critical theorist overshadowed by Adorno himself. Countering Adorno, Bloch posited utopian thinking not only as a possible but also as a necessary theoretical tool of Critical Theory. I argue that Bloch’s ideas can be valuable in resolving the aporia of utopian thinking in Critical Theory. While important in its own right, this aporia is highly significant due to the enormous influence it exerted on the death of utopia in Western political thought, which can be seen as one of the key factors contributing to the escalating social, political and economic regressions of our contemporary era. Understanding the reasons behind the emergence of death of utopia, as well as its possible resolutions, thus present questions that urgently need to be addressed.
Supervisor: Ruehl, Martin A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: utopia ; Critical Theory ; social change ; radical philosophy ; utopian thinking ; Marxism ; Marx ; Adorno ; Bloch ; good society ; Utopieverbot ; imagination ; hope