Paul Lerner & Joes Segal, eds.

Alternative Realities: Utopian Thought in Times of Political Rupture

Bulletin Supplement 14 (2019)


For this volume, we selected several of the most thought-provoking contributions which, taken together, highlight the major themes and perspectives that ran through the conference presentations and discussions, divided into sections on Countercultures, Ideologies and Practices, and Alternative Visions. Taken together, these essays shed new light on the history of utopian thought and on the experience and representation of major twentieth-century turning points. They disrupt simplistic dichotomies between revolutionary and conservative movements, revealing the utopian impulses behind conservative ideas as well as the nostalgia and conservatism at the heart of some of the century’s most forward-looking and progressive moments and movements. Similarly, they break down barriers between East and West, revealing the operation of similar tendencies and patterns on both sides of the Iron Curtain, as capitalist and communist regimes marched toward alternative, but ultimately parallel, visions of modernity. They chart the petering out of the twentieth century’s boldest and most ambitious projects — of creating new men, new women, new people — and yet show the reemergence of utopian longings in the retreat to the familiar, the local, and the traditional. Twentieth-century Europe’s darkest moments saw the stirrings of new utopian aspirations, and we suspect that this dialectic will continue to characterize the twentyfi rst-century world, which, by all indications, suggests that history is anything but over.