Opinion polls, volatile voting patterns, and street protests demonstrate widespread dissatisfaction with the current system, yet the popular response so far has largely been limited to the angry outcry of No! But negation, by itself, affects nothing. The dominant system doesn’t dominate because people agree with it; it rules because we’re convinced there is no alternative.
We need to be able to imagine a radical alternative – a Utopia – yet we are haunted by the disasters of “actually existing” Utopias of the past century, from fascism to authoritarian socialism. In this re-issue of Thomas More’s generative volume, scholar and activist Stephen Duncombe re-imagines Utopia as an open text, one designed by More as an imaginal machine freeing us from the tyranny of the present while undermining master plans for the future.
Open Utopia is the first complete English language edition of Thomas More’s Utopia that honors the primary precept of Utopia itself: that all property is common property. Open Utopia, licensed under Creative Commons, is free to copy, to share, to use. But Utopia is more than the story of a far-off land with no private property. It is a text that instructs us how to approach texts, be they literary or political, in an open manner: open to criticism, open to participation, and open to re-creation. Utopia is no-place, and therefore it is up to all of us to imagine it.
In this volume, and its accompanying website, Utopia is re-imagined and brought into the digital age as a participatory technology for undermining authority and facilitating new imagination.
“A welcome new intervention into an old text. Re-read through the lens of Duncombe’s extensive – and persuasive – introduction, More’s Utopia is revealed as a subversive methodology for approaching utopias, one that engages and expands our capacity for political invention and imagination. Open Utopia is an infinite demand that splits the subject open to new possible worlds rather than giving a closed plan.” – Simon Critchley, author of The Faith of the Faithless
“I first read More’s Utopia as a student in Soviet times and remember it vaguely as a text venerable, but totally irrelevant to any lived experience. Stephen Duncombe’s re-introduction helps me better understand how literature can be newly needful and differently taught.” – Tatiana Venediktova, Moscow State University
“Everybody knows the difference between an open and a closed door. Fewer know the difference between an open mind and a closed mind, especially on the American left, where intellectual policing often replaces intellectual encouragement. Stephen Duncombe, in conversation with More and the horrifying history of utopia and utopians, opens minds and doors and reaffirms the importance of utopian thinking. Adelante, excelsior!” – Reverend Donna Schaper