10. Utopianism and Prefiguration [chapter]

Ruth Kinna, S. D. Chrostowska, James D. Ingram
2017 Political Uses of Utopia  
For anarchists, utopias are about action. As Uri Gordon argues, utopias are "umbilically connected to the idea of social revolution". 1 The kind of action utopia describes is a matter of debate. This essay examines how utopian thinking shapes anarchist thought and highlights some recent shifts in the political uses of utopia. Utopianism is not treated as an abstract concept or method, nor as a literary genre or place -because that is not how anarchists have understood the idea. Utopia, Gordon
more » ... tes, "has always meant something more than a hypothetical exercise in designing a perfect society". As a revolutionary idea, utopia is instead linked to the principle of prefiguration. Prefiguration has been identified as a core concept in contemporary anarchist thinking and it is increasingly invoked to highlight the distinctiveness of anarchist practices, actions and movements. In 2011, two months after the start of Occupy Wall Street, David Graeber identified prefigurative politics as one of the movement's four characteristically anarchist principles, the other three being direct action, illegalism and the rejection of hierarchy. Hinting at the utopianism of the concept, he described Occupy as a genuine attempt "to create the institutions of the new society in the shell of the old". Pursuing the idea, he linked prefiguration to the creation of "democratic General Assemblies", consensus decision-making and a range of mutual aid, self-help institutions -including "
doi:10.7312/chro17958-011 fatcat:x3opdr7rcrbk5fixztilw6mjmu