Critical_theory_and_utopia.pdf - Critical theory and utopia...

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Critical theory and utopia As part of a larger project on the genesis of the concept of utopia in critical theory, we will address here Marcuse and his work at two different moments: the 1930s when utopia exists primarily as a concept in dialogues between Marcuse and Horkheimer. And the second moment is in the 1970s when utopia is more influenced by praxis , with the elaboration of the new concept through the concrete utopia of Ernst Bloch. Moreover, we argue that a new conception of utopia was produced by debates among the first generation of critical theorists. They had to deal with disenchanting reality of European fascism which seemed to put an end to their hopes for revolutionary transformation of capitalism. Critical Theory was faced with the task of thinking the radically other According to Horkheimer, this means clearly distinguish between philosophical truth and scientific truth. The first truth generated the utopia that strengthened the hope for another world; and the second one, considerers that this utopia is unattainable. Marcuse shared Horheimer´s views, as the following passage from 1937 indicates: When truth cannot be realized within the established social order, it always appears to the latter as utopia. This transcendence speaks not against, but for, its truth. The utopian element was long the only progressive element in philosophy, as in the constructions of the best states and the highest pleasure, of perfect happiness and perpetual peace. (See Herbert Marcuse, “Philosophy and critical theory,” Negations: Essays in Critical Theory (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1968) p. 143. On Marcuse’s work with the Frankfurt School and development of a critical theory of society, see Toward a Critical Theory of Society ). The force of the concept: 1930s On the one hand, Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer all agree on the diagnosis of blocked praxis . That praxis in the enphatic Marxian sense is not possible at the present time. On the other hand, they agree that Critical Theory can not regress to "utopian socialism". That is: the defense of an ideal society without specifying the means to achieve it. The utopian socialists believed that the establishment of a socialist system would occur slowly and gradually, based on pacifism, including the goodwill of the bourgeoisie itself. Their ideas
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were still heavily based on Enlightenment thought and frontally opposed to Critical Theory, insofar as the utopians perpetuated rationalism in spite of the contradictions within capitalist society. Moreover, utopian socialism didn’t carry out a radical critique of capitalism, since they still defended its most elementary practices. It´s true that the first generation of Critical Theory perpetuated Marx's criticism of the "utopian socialism". However, a different conception arises in Marcuse predominantly through Ernst Bloch, which we call a “ critical conception of utopia”.
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