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Utopia and dystopia in confrontation troughout the history

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Faced with the failure of the Enlightenment, Marxism and Modernity in the construction of human happiness, it is an immense challenge for contemporary thinkers to establish new paradigms and new values of rational behavior to be formulated for society in the present era. Contemporary thinkers need to mobilize in the reinvention of a new Enlightenment project of society as did eighteenth-century thinkers in order to construct the utopia of a new world that will bring to an end the ordeal of humanity.

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Utopia and dystopia in confrontation troughout the history

  1. 1. 1 UTOPIA AND DYSTOPIA IN CONFRONTATION TROUGHOUT THE HISTORY Fernando Alcoforado* Utopia and dystopia are two concepts that encourage discussion about the future. Utopia can be understood as the idea of an ideal, imaginary, perfect, and therefore unreachable society. The word utopia was created from the Greek terms "u" (prefix employed with negative connotation) and "topos" (place), meaning "no place" or "place that does not exist". The term appeared for the first time in the book “Utopia” of the English writer Thomas More, around 1516. In his work, More criticizes the real society in which he lives and proposes an island that he idealized where society would abolish private property, intolerance religious and everyone would live happily in a fair and egalitarian environment. Dystopia is generally characterized as a place where one lives under conditions of extreme oppression, despair or deprivation. The word dystopia or anti- utopia is the antithesis of utopia, presenting a negative view of the future, usually characterized by totalitarianism, authoritarianism and oppressive control of society. In dystopia, passing or going to a better world is not possible. On the contrary, the negative characteristics of reality are reinforced. By reinforcing the negative characteristics of the world, dystopian literary works are critical or satirical, serving as a warning to humanity, starting with a pessimistic discourse. In works of fiction, the authors portray the future in a negative way with the catastrophic evolution of society that is opposed to the utopian. A rather famous example of dystopia is Aldous Huxley's “Brave New World” (1932). This book tells a hypothetical future where individuals are biologically preconditioned and live in a society organized by caste. Another dystopic classic is "1984," by British author George Orwell. Published in 1949, the work portrays the daily life of a totalitarian and repressive political regime. 1. Utopia and dystopia in the history of mankind The history of humanity is full of examples of utopias and dystopias. Excellent examples of utopia concern the Enlightenment, Marxism and Modernity. With the Enlightenment, it was expected that society to evolve into tolerance, humanism and respect for nature, and would affirm the right to freedom and equality between men. It should be noted that the purpose of the Enlightenment was to correct the inequalities of society and guarantee the natural rights of the individual, such as freedom and free possession of goods. Enlightenment humanism of the eighteenth century already proposed that human beings and their dignity should be the center and fundamental value of all sciences, thus imposing also that it was the maximum concern of any legal order, of any legal system. The Enlightenment provided the motto of the French Revolution (Freedom, Equality and Fraternity) and fecundated it inasmuch as his followers opposed injustices, religious intolerance and the privileges of absolutism. However, since the French Revolution until the present moment, the political promises of the Enlightenment have been abandoned throughout the world with the adoption of inhuman practices increasingly sophisticated by governments and imperialists by the great capitalist powers, the unleashing of 3 world wars (World War I, World War II and the Cold War), the advent of fascism and Nazism, military intervention and coup d'état in various countries around
  2. 2. 2 the world, as well as the escalation of neofascism in the contemporary era in the United States, in Europe and also in Brazil. The political theses of the Enlightenment failed since the English Revolution (1640), the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789). This failure paved the way for the advent of Marxist ideology in the nineteenth century throughout the world, which proposed to take a step forward in relation to the Enlightenment, seeking the end of the exploitation of man by man with the reduction of economic inequalities between social classes and, in the future, its complete abolition. The facts of history demonstrate that the Enlightenment theses that guided the bourgeois revolutions in the eighteenth century and the Marxist theses on which the socialist revolutions of the twentieth century were held failed to fulfill their historical promises to conquer human happiness. As an example of the failure of the Enlightenment and its promises, one can consider the failure of liberal capitalism not only in the political-institutional field, but also in the field of the economy which, driven by the free market, was responsible for the occurrence of two great economic depressions in the world capitalist system in 1873 and 1929, the escalation of colonialism and imperialism in all quarters of the Earth and the advent of two world wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945), as well as neo-liberal capitalism, which in the era of economic and financial globalization was responsible for the global crisis of 2008 and gave birth to modern totalitarianism that, encompassing the entire planet, imposes the neoliberal ideology that occupies all space and all sectors of life at the same time and represses in any way the will to transform man and the world. As an example of the failure of Marxism and its promises, one can consider the failure to build socialism in the Soviet Union and in the countries of Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, etc. which demonstrate that the old socialist project is no longer feasible and a new project of socialist society will have to be worked out. It should be stressed that the utopia based on the old socialist project as it was constructed in the Soviet Union and in other countries became its opposite, dystopia, state capitalism, with political power exercised despotically and corruptly by a new type of bourgeoisie (state bourgeoisie or nomenclature). The proletariat on behalf of which the socialist revolution was carried out did not exercise power and the population did not participate in the decisions of governments. Real socialism has come to an end and there has been no popular reaction to fight in its defense and to maintain it which demonstrates the immense frustration of the people by not meeting their expectations. 2. The Advances of Utopia in Scandinavia and Dystopia in Brazil In a world in which dystopia is dominant in confrontation with utopia, the model of society adopted in Scandinavia seems to be an exception. In this region of the planet, it seems that utopia overlaps with dystopia. The Nordic or Scandinavian model of social democracy could best be described as a kind of middle ground between capitalism and socialism. It is neither wholly capitalist nor wholly socialist, being the attempt to fuse the most desirable elements of both into a "hybrid" system. The success of this model was due to the combination of a broad welfare state with rigid mechanisms of regulation of market forces, capable of putting the economy in a dynamic trajectory, at the same time that it reaches the best indicators of well-being among the countries of the world.
  3. 3. 3 It is not by chance that the Scandinavian countries are the ones with the highest rates of economic and social progress and are leaders in HDI (Human Development Index) in the world. Unlike liberalism, real socialism and neoliberalism, in the Scandinavian countries despite their differences, they all share some common traits: a universalist welfare state that is geared towards improving individual autonomy, promoting social mobility and ensuring the universal provision of basic human rights and the stabilization of the economy. They are also distinguished by their emphasis on labor force participation, promoting gender equality, reducing social inequality, extensive levels of benefits to the population, and great magnitude of wealth redistribution. In Brazil, dystopia overcame attempts to construct utopia throughout its history, that is, to build a society that contributes to the happiness of the Brazilian population. The revolutionary nativism, under the influence of the ideals of liberalism and the great purposes of revolutions of the eighteenth century gave way in Brazil the logic of to change preserving the privileges that prevails today, while D. Pedro I, Crown Prince of the Royal House Portuguese, took the initiative and not the Brazilian people to execute the political act that culminated with the Independence. The Independence of Brazil was therefore a "revolution without revolution" because there were no changes in the economic base and in the political and legal superstructures of the nation. The State that is born of the Independence of Brazil maintains the execrable latifundia and intensifies the not less execrable slavery making of this the support of the restoration that realizes as to the economic structures inherited of the Colony. Brazil was the last country in the world to end slavery in the nineteenth century, agrarian reform is still to be achieved because the ill-fated agrarian structure based on latifundia continues to exist in Brazil, modernized nowadays with agribusiness, and the industrialization process was introduced late in Brazil, 200 years after the Industrial Revolution in England. This explains the economic backwardness of Brazil in relation to the more developed countries. The dystopia won the utopia of building a society in Brazil that correspond to the interests of the vast majority of the population with the attempted coup d´État that led to President Getulio Vargas suicide in 1954, the 1964 coup d´État that overthrew the government João Goulart and deployed a civilian dictatorship and military 21 years and with the adoption of neoliberal economic model from 1990 to the present time which contributed to the increase in financial and technological dependence of Brazil from the outside, the de-industrialization of the country, the denationalization of the Brazilian economy and, as from 2014, for the insolvency of the federal, state and municipal governments, the general bankruptcy of about half of the small, medium and large companies of the Country and the underutilization of the labor force in more than 27 millions of workers as a result of the overwhelming current economic recession that undermines Brazil's economic future and the social conditions of the great majority of the Brazilian population. The country's economic debacle after 2014 and the systemic corruption of the PT (Workers Party) governments revealed through the processes of the “Mensalão” and “Lava Jato” Operation contributed decisively to the advent of a serious dystopia in Brazil that meant the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the last presidential elections in the face of its clearly fascist position whose discourse is based on the explicit cult of order, state violence, authoritarian government practices, social disregard for vulnerable and
  4. 4. 4 fragile groups, and exacerbated anti-communism. Political conflicts in Brazil tend to grow during the Bolsonaro administration. In the neoliberal era in which we live, there is no space for the advancement of social rights in Brazil. On the contrary, dystopia advances with the elimination of such rights and the deconstruction and denial of reforms already conquered by the subaltern classes. The so-called "reforms" of social security, labor, privatization of public enterprises, etc. - "reforms" that are currently present in the political agenda of the future president of the Republic - are aimed at the pure and simple restoration of the conditions of a "savage" capitalism, in which the laws of the market must be vigorously enforced. Dystopia therefore overlaps with the utopia of building a society that contributes to the collective happiness of the Brazilian nation. 3. Modernity and dystopia Modernity was born with the 1st Industrial Revolution in England. Since the 1st Industrial Revolution, science and technology have acquired a fundamental importance for human progress, through continuous technological innovations. With Modernity, one sought to use the accumulation of knowledge generated in search of human emancipation and the enrichment of daily life. Modernity is identified with the belief in the progress and ideals of the Enlightenment. With Modernity it was hoped that society would attain the utopia of uninterrupted progress for the benefit of humanity through the development of science and technology. Like the Enlightenment and Marxism, Modernity failed to fulfill its promises. The evolution of modernity was marked by events that negatively marked society from the twentieth century. Chief among them was undoubtedly the catastrophes of the 1st and 2nd World War. In fact, science and technology have contributed to the barbarism of two world wars with the invention of powerful and destructive war weapons. Science and technology have come to be used on an unprecedented scale for both good and evil. Add to all this the fact that science has lost its value as a result of the disillusionment with the benefits that technology has brought to mankind. All of this scientific and technological development culminated in the current era with a global ecological crisis that could result in a catastrophic global climate change that could threaten the survival of mankind. In this sense one can doubt the real benefits brought by scientific and technological progress with the advent of Modernity. Everything that has just been described shows the prevalence of dystopia over utopia in the history of humanity. An example of dystopia is what is presented in The End of Progress - How modern economics has failed us, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2011. Graeme Maxton states that humanity is moving backward. Humanity is destroying more than building. In each year, the world economy grows approximately US$ 1.5 trillion. But every year, humanity devastates the planet at a cost of US$ 4.5 trillion. Humanity is moving in the opposite direction, generating losses greater than the wealth it creates. Maxton states that mankind experienced rapid economic growth but also created an unstable world. According to Maxton, in many countries, for the first time in centuries, we are faced with declining of life expectancy and the prospect of declining food production and water supply, as well as the depletion of natural resources such as oil.
  5. 5. 5 Another example of dystopia is presented in John Casti's book O Colapso de Tudo - Os Eventos Extremos que Podem Destruir a Civilização a Qualquer Momento (The Collapse of Everything - The Extreme Events that Can Destroy Civilization Any Time) (Rio: Editora Intrínseca Ltda., 2012). In his book, John Casti states that our society is becoming so intertwined and complex that collapse is almost inevitable. Casti traced the scenarios of a widespread and enduring interruption of the internet, the depletion of the global food supply system, a continental electromagnetic pulse that destroys all electronic devices, the collapse of globalization, the destruction of the Earth by the creation of exotic particles, the destabilization of the nuclear situation, the end of the global oil supply, a global pandemic, the lack of electricity and drinking water, intelligent robots that surpass humanity and global deflation and the collapse of global financial markets. Edgar Morin also presents an example of dystopia in his book Vers l'abîme? (Towards the abyss?) (Paris: Cahiers de L'Herne, 2007). Edgar Morin considers the inevitability of the disaster that threatens humanity in which, he says, the improbable becomes possible. The title of the book in the form of interrogation deals with the certainty of the abyss. "Will humanity avoid this disaster or start again from disaster? Does the global crisis that opens and expand lead to disaster or overcoming?" Edgar Morin proves that the world crisis has worsened and that dominant political thinking is incapable of formulating a policy of civilization and humanity. The world is at the beginning of chaos, and the only perspective is a metamorphosis, with the emergence of forces of transformation and regeneration. Morin states that Modernity created three myths: of to control the Universe, of the progress and of the conquest of happiness. The enormous development of science, technology, economics, capitalism, has unprecedentedly increased the invention, but also the capacity for destruction. . Reason inherited from the Enlightenment imposed the idea of a fully intelligible Universe. Scientific and technical progress allowed human emancipation as always, but collective death has also become possible as never before. Technological, scientific, medical, social progress is manifested in the form of biosphere destruction, cultural destruction, creation of new inequalities and new easements. Morin defends the thesis that world society is not civilized, on the contrary, it is barbaric. Morin states that we are facing the sinking of the Enlightenment and its promises. 4. Conclusion What has just been described makes evident the imperative necessity of building a new utopia and its feasibility that contributes to the conquest of human happiness in all quarters of the Earth. One fact is indisputable: without the overthrow of modern totalitarianism on a national and global scale, represented by the dystopia imposed by neoliberal globalization, the problems affecting the human being will not be overcome in each country in isolation. Faced with the failure of the Enlightenment, Marxism and Modernity in the construction of human happiness, it is an immense challenge for contemporary thinkers to establish new paradigms and new values of rational behavior to be formulated for society in the present era. Contemporary thinkers need to mobilize in the reinvention of a new Enlightenment project of society as did eighteenth-century thinkers in order to construct the utopia of a new world that will bring to an end the ordeal of humanity.
  6. 6. 6 * Fernando Alcoforado, 78, holder of the CONFEA / CREA System Medal of Merit, member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor in Territorial Planning and Regional Development by the University of Barcelona, university professor and consultant in the areas of strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems, is the author of 14 books addressing issues such as Globalization and Development, Brazilian Economy, Global Warming and Climate Change, The Factors that Condition Economic and Social Development, Energy in the world and The Great Scientific, Economic, and Social Revolutions that Changed the World.