The Changeability of the World: Utopia and Critique

McAuliffe, Sam. 2022. The Changeability of the World: Utopia and Critique. In: Kathrin Thiele; Birgit M. Kaiser and Timothy O’Leary, eds. The Ends of Critique: Methods, Institutions, Politics. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 57-75. ISBN 9781786616470 [Book Section]

The Changeability of the World, Sam McAuliffe.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (288kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The utopian impulse is bound up with an act of critique. As the expression of “the longing for what is not yet,” utopia traces the contours of something other than what is given at present; it discloses the possibility that what is could be different, a possibility that would otherwise remain unacknowledged and occluded. Its projection thereby points to a gap in the existing order of things, it shows that within the latter’s present state “something is missing”, and it calls this state to account for this unrealized possibility. “The essential function of utopia is a critique of what is present”, Ernst Bloch says in the course of an exchange with Adorno on this tendency. However fantastic this projection is, its trajectory is guided by an antagonism in reality, which its passage then indicates in inverse form.

And yet it is no less true that the possible world held out by utopian projection only ever appears at a remove from us, as though blocked off to us; we do not know how to access it, how to render it something actual, or even how to situate it in relation to where we ourselves are. It appears to us as a place that is, strictly speaking, nowhere. In this way it always carries the risk of leaving unchanged the present from which it has distinguished itself. It is for this reason that Louis Marin suggests that “Utopia is an ideological critique of ideology”; it is opaque to itself as a critical practice, the figure through which it is imparted is “blind”.

This essay seeks to unfold a series of consequences that follow on from the double bind to which utopian critique is subject. It does so in relation to a particular context: the critical experiments characteristic of Brechtian pedagogy, its practical methods and social frameworks.

Item Type:

Book Section


Brecht, Bloch, Adorno, Ricoeur, Marin, Utopia, Pedagogy, Defamiliarization

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


February 2022Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Feb 2022 10:35

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2022 17:22


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)