Reading the maps: realism, science fiction and Utopian strategies.
It is fair to assume that readers of this journal share at least a sympathy with Oscar Wilde's assertion that 'a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at'. (1) But this quote gestures at more than is usually assumed and points us in the direction of a crucial utopian function: mapping. Utopias are not concerned with imagining the future so much as with sketching out the present and our ways out of it, allowing us, as The Seeds of Time describes it, 'to feel around our minds' invisible limits'. (2) They function here, as Fredric Jameson suggests elsewhere, as 'a determinate type of praxis, rather than as a specific mode of representation ... as a concrete set of mental operations to be performed on a determinate type of raw material given in advance, which is contemporary society itself'. (3) News from Nowhere, so often read as a dream of that world we call the future, takes on a quite different significance when we recall that William Morris' serial publication in Commonweal was a form of polemic by stealth, locking horns with the anarchists he saw wrecking what was left of the Socialist League. (4)
These preliminary remarks ought, hopefully, to reinforce the common observation that the debates which open up between the proponents of the various utopias, realism, science fiction and cyberpunk are not so much about our visions of the future--indeed, as Jameson has reminded us on many occasions, utopias underline our very inability to imagine this future--as they are quarrels about strategy for the present. How do we get reliable information about contemporary capitalism and the various collective fantasies of it or, in more properly utopian terminology, what forms are adequate for mapping the current world system? This latter question is as much one of identification (just what stage in global capitalism are we in, or, how late is late capitalism going to be?) as it is one of immediate tactical oppositions.
Until reasonably recently these debates, within a marxist framework at least, could have a fairly stable frame of reference, with the infamous comments in 'Progress versus Utopia' standing as either antagonist or ally. (5) But Jameson's most recent intervention in Archaeologies of the Future suggests new lines of flight, and usefully complicates what once seemed like insurmountable oppositions. Writing after the emergence of the great anti-globalization movements, Jameson stresses now the use of the 'diagnostic interventions of the Utopians' (6) from a significantly different political perspective:
[T]he social totality is always unrepresentable, even for the most numerically limited groups of people; but it can sometimes be mapped and allow a small scale-model to be constructed on which the fundamental tendencies and the lines of flight can more clearly be read. (7)
In what follows I hope to pursue some of these 'lines of flight' as they have appeared in Jameson's work to date. I will do so with the political goal of suggesting, from within Jameson's own interventions on behalf of science fiction, Utopia and the like, some futures for another form of literary mapping, one more often passed over in contemporary political and aesthetic debates: the tradition of literary realism.
My aim here, though--and heaven knows this still needs to be stressed--is not to set up some sort of pointless opposition between science fiction and realism. Writing as a member of that 'whole new generation of the post-globalization left',8 my purpose is more one of preservation than polemic. In a Left currently underwhelmed with aesthetic options, it may pay to consider what afterlives, utopian or otherwise, allegedly spent literary forms may still have. Or, following Jameson's own inventive adaptation of Kevin Lynch's The Image of the City, we could contend that what the confusing, contradictory and wide-open space of contemporary class struggle may demand is not one but many maps.
Now I know where I stand, where I stood. Within limits.
Kendrick Smithyman, 'Reading the Maps'
Near the beginning of a recent article on William Gibson's Pattern Recognition in New Left Review, Jameson makes the claim that cyberpunk is sending back 'more reliable information about the contemporary world than an exhausted realism'. (9) From any other commentator this seemingly casual aside could pass without notice; realism is, after all, hardly the most popular of topics nowadays. But, naturally, one never finds casual asides in Jameson, and from the leading, if not, one sometimes sadly feels, the only major Hegelian Marxist writing today, this is an astonishing proposition. Realism, and a strongly realist aesthetics, have always been central concerns and moments of return for those who, like Jameson, move within the Lukacsian position, and this shift, present or suggested in earlier writings, gestures towards a wider reorientation of marxist criticism's current challenges.
These remarks are not meant to suggest, of course, that Jameson has ever promoted a naive or uncomplicated version of realist aesthetics. The Political Unconscious is acutely aware of the 'gradual reification of realism under late capitalism' and of the blockages and strategies of containment once innovative forms can face. (10) The ongoing and, to my mind at least, never properly resolved tension of definition--between realism as a spent historical moment and realism as a formal possibility or strategic option--is an aspect of Jameson's work which would reward close attention but which, unfortunately, falls beyond the remit of this particular paper.
Whatever the complications and agonized qualifications surrounding it, though, realism has remained a constant goal and a desire in Jameson's work. Realism is evoked sometimes to speak to a situation where we remain caught within 'the crux of a history beyond which we have not yet passed'. Precisely because we have not passed through this history, it 'cannot of course tell us what our conception of realism ought to be' and, ironically, it is the study of this very vagueness which 'makes it impossible for us not to feel the obligation' to invent such a conception. (11) This sense of obligation stems from realism's potential to totalize, to generate real aesthetic and epistemological knowledge of what Lukacs once called the 'differentiated and epically complete variety of life', or, in other words, the social world itself. (12)
In his work Jameson comes to associate realism with this potential to totalize through a complex association of its historical emergence and its generic capabilities. Space prevents me from offering any more than the barest outline of what is a rich set of theoretical writings developed over more than thirty years. This outline is necessary, though, to indicate how, in some moods at least, Jameson now sees realism as an exhausted and socially spent form supplanted by cyberpunk and science fiction.
The achievements of the classic realists of the 19th century will be familiar to most readers, and these novels, associated with the names of Balzac, Dickens, Eliot, Scott and others are, for Jameson as for most marxists, read as the product of that 'age of revolution' when a whole series of class surges and spectacular political events marked the emergence of the bourgeoisie as the undisputed centre of social power. The enormous social changes and unblocking of productive forces and energies this process facilitated enabled realism's extraordinary ambition. Historical realism lays claim to 'cognitive as well as aesthetic status' and 'presupposes a form of aesthetic experience which yet lays claim to a binding relationship to the real itself ... to those realms of knowledge and practice which had been traditionally differentiated from the aesthetic'. (13) It is, in other words, at this stage a marvellously transgressive form, enlarging the realm of the aesthetic, devouring areas previously prohibited and offering new connections and paths into the social totality. Realism becomes, in the words of The Political Unconscious, 'a narrative discourse which unites the experience of daily life with a properly cognitive mapping and a well-nigh "scientific" approach'. (14) This process is accompanied by an intense formal radicalism, and classic realism is marked by an exhilarating array of raw materials and narrative styles. Jameson himself, in The Political Unconscious, cites the inspiration of Dreiser here, but one could as easily remember the planned digressions of Eliot, the theatrical and fantasy mixes of Dickens or, closer to this part of the world and located within a quite different national struggle of our own time, the sheer historical ambition of Pramoedya Ananta Toer's This Earth of Mankind series of novels. What at first glance might seem restrictive--it was Zola, after all, who declared that 'the writer's whole effort is directed towards obliterating the imaginary with the real' (15)--produces, in Jameson's account, an enormous widening of aesthetic horizons and ambitions. The phrase 'properly cognitive mapping'--another way of marking the presence of class consciousness--makes clear that, in the history Jameson writes for classic realism, there is within its processes a chance for genuinely totalizing portrayals of the contemporary situation.
But Jameson is, naturally, far from being one of those vulgar--or, I sometimes suspect nowadays, mythical--Lukacsians who repeat the prescriptions Bertolt Brecht once parodied as 'be like Balzac, only up to date!'. Jameson's writings over the last twenty years register a strategic uncertainty regarding the place for realism in any marxist project. This strategic uncertainty, of course, mirrors a far wider set of uncertainties afflicting marxism in the face of continued assaults on the workers' movement from neo-liberalism. Jameson's controversial speculations about realism's displacement by national allegory in the so-called 'Third World' are only the most famous instance of a whole series of meditations on the fate of realism which appear in almost every one of his texts from the last two decades. (16) Realism, in these more recent writings, hovers and shifts between operating to categorize a period, a moment in literary history, and setting itself as a goal and method or, in more properly political terminology, as a programmatic project.
In his landmark essay 'Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', Jameson suggests that the era of late or multinational capitalism is unrepresentable, or at least that the era of depthlessness, weakened historicity, intensities and new technology is not easily representable in the manner of the steam engine or the turbine. (17) Realism, in this central essay, is a literary-historical moment fitting into the 'cultural periodization of the stages of realism, modernism and postmodernism' corresponding to liberal, monopoly and late capitalism in Ernest Mandel's scheme. (18) Realism, following this essay's logic, is a lost moment condemned to either a parasitic afterlife in the stunted intensity effects of contemporary works or to purely scholarly speculation as a form from a past mode of production. This periodizing urge is what we could label the negative moment in Jameson's dialectic of realism. It is one of a number of brief passages scattered throughout his oeuvre all mourning the shattered whole, the lost moment where once the aesthetic could have offered knowledge.
But these negative moments, where realism is the unattainable goal bequeathed to a once knowable History, are accompanied by their contradiction: Jameson's insistence on realism as a political necessity and as a desirable, indeed programmatic, goal. The German aesthetic duels of the 1930s between realism and modernism lose, for Jameson, 'interest if one side is programmed to win in advance', (19) and realism itself, in this controversy, takes on a new set of responsibilities and powers. The challenge Jameson sets for realism in Aesthetics and Politics is worth quoting at some length:
[T]here is some final question whether the ultimate renewal of modernism, the final dialectical subversion of the now automatized conventions of an aesthetic of perpetual revolution, might not simply be ... realism itself! For when modernism and its accompanying techniques of 'estrangement' have become the dominant style whereby the consumer is reconciled with capitalism, the habit of fragmentation itself needs to be 'estranged' by a more totalizing way of viewing phenomena. (20)
This 'dominant style', or at the very least dominant critical appreciation --what Frank Hardy once called in the Australian context the 'Patrick White Australia policy'--needs displacing, Jameson suggests here, with a shock from the very forms it had itself once considered reified and stuck on the side of Caesar. The task of any renewed realism, from this (relatively) optimistic perspective of the late 1970s, would be to 'resist the power of reification in consumer society and to reinvent that category of totality which, systematically undermined by existential fragmentation on all levels of life and social organization, can alone project social relations between classes'. (21) In the 21st century, when advertising companies adopt the works of the great avant gardes in music and writing to market everything from iPods to planes, this passage has lost none of its immediacy. What Jameson demands of realism is clear: the 'renewed realism', like its 19th-century ancestor, must organize its material to provide totalizing visions, useful, genuine information about the social whole--which we might as well come clean and call the mode of production itself--and its accompanying fantasies: historical perspective and cognitive claims.
It hardly seems an accident that during the 1980s--a period of sustained, vicious and victorious ruling-class offensives against the workers' movement and progressive forces internationally, anti-marxist revival in the Western academy and increasing globalization--confident, directly political pronouncements of the kind contained in Aesthetics and Politics became ever more rare in Jameson's work. He revised and reformulated his position on realism several times, to the extent that, by recent times, he has rephrased the very problem of realism to exclude from it some of what earlier articles had advanced as its central components. In A Singular Modernity, Jameson writes that 'modernism is an aesthetic category and realism is an epistemological one; the truth claim of the latter is irreconcilable with the former'. (22) Irreconcilable breakdown may be the language of no-fault splits, but in this context what has been rent is the very possibility of realism's politically progressive character. The Jameson of these moments offers bleak and bracing prospects for those committed to the political implications still caught up in realism.
All things come to pass through conflict.
But statements of this sort of finality are impossible to sustain in the work of a thinker as dialectically adept as Jameson and, besides, Heraclitus is right: the lousy years of Thatcher and Reagan passed into the contradictory 1990s, when anti-globalization protests, the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the defeat of apartheid in South Africa all indicated new political co-ordinates. In his writings from the last decade Jameson has used his previous twin perspectives-realism as a movement or moment and realism as a method--to try and set these against each other in a way which can reassert the usefulness of totalizing thought in an era like ours, gone to seed and grown used to an inherited suspicion of grand narratives.
Signatures of the Visible poses the problem as one of how 'once we have talked ourselves into a positive or productive concept of the realist aesthetic we are to restore its negative and ideological dimension, its essential falseness and conventionality'. (23) There is one solution suggested in this text, which involves sliding from viewing realism as representation to reconfiguring it as narrative. This approach usefully dispels any lingering remnants of the copy theory of art and allows us to accept what Jameson calls the 'essential falseness and conventionality' of realism as precisely those aspects which are clarifying for being objectively false, true pictures of the distorted world mapped out over the pages of Capital. In the same way that Marx saw Balzac as being of the Communist Party without knowing it, literary realism, for Signatures of the Visible at least, can be redeployed as part of that familiar marxist negative hermeneutic, unravelling the false logic of capitalism hidden in the text.
But where does this method leave the promise of Aesthetics and Politics: realism's potential to resist the power of reification?
Two afterlives suggest themselves. If cyberpunk and science fiction really are sending back 'more reliable' information than 'exhausted' realism, then this, in a weak sense, suggests realism's ongoing power. This is the lesson Tzvetan Todorov taught us so many years ago, that the fantastic is, in his words, 'inextricably linked to realism as its repressed, excluded or occult other'. (24) Another afterlife of this kind is contained within modernist works, when these are in their turn read as 'simply cancelled realist' works intensifying our obsession with linear time and order through their various tricks and flashy narrative apparatus. (25) One of the tasks for marxism is then to decode these repressions, to seek out the existence of realisms denied, displaced or repressed within the imagined worlds of science fiction and cyberpunk.
There is much more, fortunately, than this sort of literary detection for weak echoes of realism offered in Jameson's recent accounts. Jameson's choice of praise for Gibson--that he offers 'more reliable information'--ought to be suggestive here and if, until this moment, I have focused attention more on programmatic statements about realism from the 1970s and 1980s, it is worth considering now how Jameson's recent writings on cyberpunk fold back in on this earlier work. Cyberpunk, Jameson now suggests, carries out the 'historically original literary vocation of mapping the new geopolitical Imaginary'. (26) One of its practitioners, Bruce Sterling, 'almost expresses the truth of an emergent globalization'. (27) Cyberpunk, Jameson continues, 'has real epistemological value' and 'provides a first crude inventory of the new world system'. (28) Gibson's visions of global conspiracy, commodity warfare and frantic fashion and espionage exchange, from the hyper-reality of Shinjuku and Harajuku to the dystopia of post-Wende Eastern Europe, are of a kind suspended 'between Science Fiction and realism'. (29)
If the last quotation was not enough of a give-away, my rhetorical strategy ought by now to be obvious: Jameson's praise for the latest wave of innovative science fiction arrives soaked in the language of realist aesthetics. The strongly Lukacsian tone of these asides--their evocation of mapping, of real epistemological value, inventories, information--suggests not so much that realism is exhausted but that, rather, it has mutated into Science Fiction proper as the only usefully totalizing form available under globalization. Is cyberpunk nothing less than realism aufgehoben?
There is an obvious and glib response, of course; if realism is exhausted or has woken up among the cyberpunks, then someone really ought to get around to telling Pat Barker. But Jameson's suggestive remarks have a deeper resonance and open up areas of discussion, which concern more than what might at first seem like a local and literary disagreement. The quarrel here is over how one assesses the political possibilities opened up in the contemporary mode of production. I want to end this essay by sketching out a counter-argument to Jameson's around this particular question of globalization and representation. His suggestion that realism is exhausted is connected absolutely to his sense of globalization as a new period or mode of production and the two claims must stand or fall alongside each other. In what follows, I want to indicate some alternative lines of flight for contemporary realism, not so much to disparage the achievements or possibilities of science fiction and cyberpunk, but rather to suggest that these forms can fulfil their true utopian potential only when incorporated within the broader arsenal of the Left, and accordingly, when we place them alongside reinstated and, until now, maligned 'forecasts of the past' we could identify as contemporary realism.
In a recent article for Critical Enquiry, Jameson characterizes globalization as a world where, amongst other innovations, 'one can electronically substitute one entire national working class for another, halfway around the globe, wiping out industry after industry in the home country and dissipating accumulated months of value-producing labour overnight'. 'Old fashioned industrial labour' has, in this schema, been replaced by 'the new cybernetic kind'. (30) From this perspective it is easy to see why the Gibson of Pattern Recognition or Idoru, focused on near instant world travel, simulacra of commodities and fantasy consumption, can be accorded the status of reliable information. But is this outline of globalization true or even, at the level of rhetoric and ideology, politically useful? One can identify a serious problem with the 'globalization' thesis as Jameson seems to accept it.
The historical and programmatic definitions of realism converge in this quarrel: if the deeper, more continuous rhythms of production can carry across from monopoly capitalism to our own version of it, then the idea that realism has been displaced by some 'cultural logic' seems at once less secure. If it turns out that there are as many continuities as there are departures between the capitalism of Lenin and Henry Ford and the current world of Hugo Chavez and Bill Gates, the whole notion of cultural logic itself becomes far more difficult to sustain in the face of antagonistic forms and cultural approaches that may in fact be flourishing alongside each other at different political and economic conjunctures.
It comes as something of a surprise, then, to read that the world share of foreign direct investment has only just exceeded its pre-1914 level; national borders live longer than we expected. (31) Pattern Recognition or Sterling's A Good Old-Fashioned Future may offer remarkable insights into some of the collective fantasies and paranoia of the current age, but where I might characterize them as expert collections of various symptomatic ideological moments, by reading these works as diagnostic, virtually realist visions of globalization, Jameson gives too many concessions to ideological mystification and the very proponents of the new world order Archaeologies of the Future sets out to combat.
This is where we might find a new life for realism to complement and ground the more adventurous advances within science fiction. Realism, with its aesthetic apparatus more closely tied to historical continuities, may be able to turn what seem like its disadvantages into aesthetic advances, and remind us of what hurts: the History that is this world-system and its own currently impassable limits, those limits too often erased in the current elation surrounding globalization. Global catastrophes like the East Asian financial crisis or the International Monetary Fund-enforced 'austerity' crippling Latin America demonstrate that the capitalist system is still racked by crisis and crises of profitability, but they also suggest some aspects of the system which might be better understood if we are more cautious than Jameson in accepting globalization's apologists in their arguments about capital's new versatility. No one can 'electronically substitute one entire national working class for another' overnight. The crisis of the Bush administration over the US occupation of Iraq demonstrates yet again the ongoing importance of physical location and production for capital. (32)
Chris Harman, in an article predating Jameson's 'weightless' comments in Critical Enquiry, demonstrates some of the ways in which older rhythms of capitalist accumulation continue to be central in the current age. His argument is worth quoting in full:
The multinationals are also far from 'weightless'. They cannot simply move huge productive facilities from one country to another at the drop of a hat. 'Metal bashing' is still central to nearly all of them. Cars, trucks, steel for girders, bridges and vehicle bodies, refrigerators, washing machines, pharmaceuticals, even computers and microchips still have to be manufactured in very expensive plants which cannot be moved at the stroke of a pen from one place to another. The industries that can be moved easily--in particular clothing manufacture using cheap sewing machines--are the exception, not the rule. In 90 percent of industry any shift in production takes place over years, not days (Ford, for instance, intends to spend at least two years shifting production from Dagenham to Germany). And when shifts occur it is overwhelmingly from one advanced country to another. In the early 1990s three quarters of worldwide overseas investment was concentrated in these countries, with another 16.5 percent going to the ten most important newly industrializing countries. This left the Third World with only 8.5 percent of the total ... Poverty exists in vast areas of Latin America, Africa and Asia, not only because capital pays low wages when it invests there, but also because investing there at all rarely fits in with its demand for endless profits. If firms cannot dispense with geographically rooted production facilities, they cannot dispense with workers either. Despite all the hype about 'globalization' the number of manufacturing workers in the advanced industrial countries is much higher than half a century ago and has barely fallen over the last decade. The number of industrial workers in the 24 leading economies was 51.7 million in 1900, 88 million in 1950, 120 million in 1971 and 112.8 million in 1998. In the US the number was 8.8 million in 1900, 20.6 million in 1950, 26 million in 1971 and 31 million in 1998. (33)
I have quoted Harman's empirical data and argument here at such length because what may seem like a local quarrel about the particular term we use to describe capitalism today conceals a more wide-ranging disagreement I have here with Jameson about realism's alleged exhaustion. In A Singular Modernity, he suggests, in what reads as an almost throwaway remark, some ways in which realism could still be defended, how
throughout and beyond the age of modernism, there are still new and vibrant realisms to be heard and to be recognized, in parts of the world and areas of the social totality into which representation has not yet penetrated ... realism itself shows precisely that dynamic of innovation [sometimes] ascribed to modernism as its uniquely distinguishing feature. (34)
The interventionist stance of this piece--reminiscent, in its way, of the earlier suggested realisms from Aesthetics and Politics--and its tone of activist, engaged optimism are welcome for the renewed sense of urgency they give the debate but, on their own, they remain inadequate. Representations, for marxism, must not only penetrate an area of the social whole, they must also occupy this area and continually re-occupy it. Representation is not a static category: it is an area of political and discursive struggle and contestation. The realisms Jameson suggests may still be possible remain so because class and class location are fundamentally dynamic aspects of the capitalist system. Class is constantly in the process of re-creation and renewal at the point of production and so all the varying and divergent sets of representation that currently exist can penetrate class only intermittently. Representation must re-occupy whatever space it has opened for itself and, in the process, it in turn makes class processes the site of a constantly new, constantly expanding set of further representations.
The important point in this is that, for politically engaged readers, the challenge is to try to harness an understanding of both the reifying, rotten aspects of capitalism and, at the very same moment, its dynamism and productive capacity. The working class is re-created every day, and as the famous if slightly shop-worn words of the Manifesto put it, 'all that is solid melts into air'. In some passages it seems as if Jameson can identify only the reified moment of this process, and occasionally can announce that 'our social life as a whole is increasingly irreconcilable with the possibilities of aesthetic expression available to us'. (35) But if this is the case then a politically useful cyberpunk or science fiction is as impossible as contemporary realism and the question, all of a sudden, seems more one of tactics and contingent choice than of variant historical modes.
The buoyant, combative appearance of Archaeologies of the Future is another reminder, though, that Jameson is too much the dialectician to hold to this bleak, static view, and only recently he provided his own contradiction: 'we can use the word utopian to designate whatever ... representations express, in however distorted or unconscious a fashion, the demand of a collective life to come, and identify social collectivity as the crucial centre of any truly progressive or innovative political response to globalization'. (36)
There remain contradictions and blockages preventing utopias assuming this role unaided, however. I want now to turn to a writer who was for so many of us our beginning: Raymond Williams, who in a very different context, indicated what historical forces might stand in the way of utopian production. 'It has been argued,' he wrote in 1979,
that it is time now to move from a tragic to a utopian mode ... But it is not, when we look at it, a question of this or that prescription. The fact is that neither the frankly utopian form, nor even the more qualified outlines of practicable futures, which are now as urgently needed, can begin to flow until we have faced, at the necessary depth, the divisions and contradictions which now inhibit them. (37)
One of these inhibitions is, I want to suggest, the figure of time and the past itself, and it is through an encounter with these that a discussion of realism earns its place in a discussion concerned with more obviously utopian occasions. A Singular Modernity ends with a call which Archaeologies of the Future then acts out: 'what we really need is a wholesale displacement of the thematic of modernity by the desire called Utopia ... [o]ntologies of the present demand archaeologies of the future, not forecasts of the past'. (38) The desire called Utopia I take to be a synonym for socialism itself, which is as yet, alas, really Nowhere. But if the utopian impulse indicates our inability to imagine the future, one of the mute blockages maintaining this inability may be our equally impoverished historical sense. Realism can fulfil a utopian task by showing us our inability to imagine the past as it might have been. Realism suggests plausible outlines and alternatives in a knowable history, a task of vital importance in a world where we are reminded, with dreary regularity, that there is no alternative to the current order. It is an inability, too, which produces anxiety and paralysis in potential historical actors. My favourite example and piece of evidence for this is, inappropriately enough, from one of the great moments of modernism, when Stephen Dedalus is bothered as he ponders how:
Time had branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? (39)
The answer to Stephen's final question, for marxism in any case, must be no. Realist fiction can remind us of this fact. A final example comes from a recent work of realism, published in time for the twentieth anniversary of the great Miners' Strike in Britain. David Peace's GB84 runs several realist plots parallel to one another: individual stories of various miners' lives during the strike itself and, alongside these, broader historical narratives of class violence and conspiracy at the highest level. For the hours one is reading, 'the infinite possibilities' are no longer ousted but open again, and the whole series of strategies, victories and defeats the Miners' Strike represents return with their full force. The novel reminds us, with a real sense of shock, of the delicate balance of forces that combined to ensure Thatcher's by no means certain victory, and in the process Peace evokes a whole sense of an era in motion. The consequences of Thatcherism are what we live with now under the label of, amongst other things, globalization, and their reworking by Peace seems as good an indicator as any that realism, far from being exhausted, is desperately needed for any revival of the historical and utopian imagination.
The miners' defeat in 1984 marks a key moment in the emergence of globalization and neo-liberalism worldwide. Returning to these events as if they could have been otherwise suggests for me both the ongoing power of realist fiction and, on another level, the importance of what we might be tempted to dismiss as 'forecasts of the past' in any concrete renewal of the desire called Utopia today. Utopias, science fiction, realism, cyberpunk; these are all ways of mapping out the world system's many facets. To refuse to choose one at the expense of the others is not, as I have tried to illustrate in my defence of realism here, to slip into a lazy pluralism. It is, rather, to recognize that we need all the imaginative resources we can gather in the face of the ideological armoury confronting and retarding progressive social forces. Besides, it is always good to have more than one 'archetypal map' at the ready: maps can
tell you about what is supposedly present. They know little about what's past and only so much about outcomes. They work within tacit limits. They're not good at predicting. If everything is anywhere in flux perhaps we may not read the same map twice. (40)
(1.) David Bennett and James Plested both provided searching criticisms and comments on an earlier draft of this piece.
(2.) F. Jameson, The Seeds of Time, New York, Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 75.
(3.) F. Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory, Vol. 2, London, Routledge, 1988, p. 81.
(4.) This, at any rate, is the provocative history reconstructed in P. O'Flinn, 'From the Kingdom of Necessity to the Kingdom of Freedom: Morris' News from Nowhere', International Socialism, vol. 2, no. 72, 1996, pp. 101-12.
(5.) '[Science fiction's] deepest vocation is over and again to demonstrate and to dramatize our inability to imagine the future, to body forth, through apparently full representations which prove on closer inspection to be structurally and constitutionally impoverished, the atrophy in our time of what Marcuse has called the utopian imagination.' F. Jameson, 'Progress versus Utopia, or, Can We Imagine the Future?', Science Fiction Studies, vol. 9, 1982, p. 153.
(6.) F. Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, London, Verso, 2005, p. 12. For some contours of the anti-globalization movement itself, see the useful selection of articles in H. Dee (ed.), Anti-Capitalism: Where Next?, London, Bookmarks, 2004.
(7.) Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, p. 14.
(8.) '[A] whole new generation of the post-globalization left ... has more and more frequently been willing to adopt this slogan [Utopia] ... The consolidation of the emergent world markets--for this is really what is at stake in so-called globalization--can eventually be expected to allow new forces of political agency to develop.' Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, p. xii.
(9.) F. Jameson, 'Fear and Loathing in Globalization', New Left Review, II, no. 23, 2003, p. 105. The same claim appears slightly revised in Archaeologies of the Future, p. 384.
(10.) F. Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, London, Routledge, 2001, p. 91.
(11.) F. Jameson, 'Reflections in Conclusion', Aesthetics and Politics, London, New Left Books, 1980, p. 213.
(12.) G. Lukacs, 'Idea and Form in Literature', (1936), Marxism and Human Liberation, E. San Juan Jnr (ed.), New York, Delta, 1973, p. 126.
(13.) Jameson, 'Reflections in Conclusion', p. 198.
(14.) Jameson, The Political Unconscious, p. 90.
(15.) Quoted in D. Grant, Realism, London, Methuen, 1970, p. 21.
(16.) See F. Jameson, 'Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism', Social Text, no. 15, 1986, pp. 65-88, and, for an important recent defence, N. Lazarus, 'Fredric Jameson on "Third-World Literature": A Qualified Defense', S. Homer and D. Kellner (eds), Fredric Jameson: A Critical Reader, Houndmills, Palgrave, 2004, pp. 42-61.
(17.) Jameson's use of the term 'late capitalism' is, as is well known, adapted from the writings of Ernest Mandel. Although any sustained discussion of the controversies surrounding Mandel's work falls well outside this present paper, it is important to acknowledge the controversy surrounding Mandel's account of the post-war boom and crisis of the 1970s within Marxist economic theory, a controversy mostly ignored in Jameson scholarship. For two searching and, in my view, damning critiques of Mandel, see P. Mattick, Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, New York, Sharpe, 1981, and C. Harman, 'Mandel's Late Capitalism', International Socialism, II, no. 1, 1978, pp. 49-87.
(18.) F. Jameson, 'Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', New Left Review, I, no. 146, 1984, p. 78.
(19.) Jameson, 'Reflections', p. 199.
(20.) Jameson, 'Reflections', p. 211. Ellipsis in original.
(21.) Jameson, 'Reflections', p. 212.
(22.) F. Jameson, A Singular Modernity, London, Verso, 2002, p. 124.
(23.) F. Jameson, Signatures of the Visible, London, Routledge, 1990, p. 163.
(24.) Quoted in R. Murphy, Theorizing the Avant-Garde, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 188. See also T. Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to Literary Genre, trans. R. Howard, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1973.
(25.) F. Jameson, 'Beyond the Cave: Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism', The Ideologies of Theory, Vol. 1, p. 129.
(26.) Jameson, 'Fear and Loathing', p. 107; Archaeologies of the Future, p. 385.
(27.) 'Fear and Loathing', p. 105; Archaeologies of the Future, p. 384.
(28.) 'Fear and Loathing', p. 107; Archaeologies of the Future, p. 385.
(29.) 'Fear and Loathing', p. 112; Archaeologies of the Future, p. 390.
(30.) F. Jameson, 'The End of Temporality', Critical Enquiry, no. 29, 2003, pp. 705, 702.
(31.) See A. Glyn, 'Imbalances of the Global Economy', New Left Review, II, no. 34, 2005, pp. 5-37.
(32.) For some of the dynamics behind this crisis, see D. Harvey, The New Imperialism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003, and D. Harvey, ABrief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.
(33.) C. Harman, 'Anti-capitalism: Theory and Practice', International Socialism, II, no. 88, 2000, pp. 21-2. See also C. Harman, 'Globalization: Critique of a New Orthodoxy', International Socialism, II, no. 73, 1996, pp. 3-34.
(34.) Jameson, A Singular Modernity, p. 123.
(35.) Jameson, Signatures, p. 54. This is by no means an isolated statement. Compare: '... the truth of our social life as a whole ... is increasingly irreconcilable with the aesthetic quality of our language or of individual expression ... if we can grasp the truth about our world or totality, as something transcending mere individual experience, we can no longer make it accessible in narrative or literary form', Jameson, 'Beyond the Cave', p. 131.
(36.) F. Jameson, 'Globalization and Political Strategy', New Left Review, II, no. 4, 2000, p. 68.
(37.) R. Williams, The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists, London, Verso, 1989, p. 104.
(38.) Jameson, A Singular Modernity, p. 215.
(39.) J. Joyce, Ulysses, London, Bodley Head, 1968, p. 30.
(40.) K. Smithyman, 'Reading the Maps: An Academic Exercise', Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1989, p. 128.
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|Title Annotation:||Part I: Archaeologies of the Future|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2006|
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