Wednesday, September 15, 2021

#258 / Which Way To Uptopia?


The July-August issue of The Nation magazine is dedicated to utopian thinking. I have reproduced the cover, above. The magazine contains a number of articles that reference utopia, and I particularly liked an article by John Nichols, "Politics: Utopia Is Possible, If We Demand It." 

Nichols names Tom Paine as "the most influential utopian thinker in American history." He then goes on to identify Paine as a "gritty political agitator."

To the degree that Paine is remembered today, the "agitator" label is probably what would seem most appropriate to those who do remember him. However, I think Nichols is right to suggest that Paine should really be classified as our "original utopian thinker." Why does Nichols so denominate him? He does so because of this quotation from Paine, which is the essence of what utopian thinking is all about:
We have it in our power to begin the world over again. 
Paine was right, you know (as the American Revolution demonstrated), and his observation that we always have the ability to do something new, something never ever even thought of before, is exactly the observation that Hannah Arendt makes in my favorite book in the world, On Revolution
We do (always) have it in our power to begin the world over. We still do! 
And we had better give it a try, too! 

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