- ---- by David B. Clarke'Utopia puts an end to the real,' claims Baudrillard (SED, 188), indicating the concept's pivotal status as a symbolic entity. Indeed, the symbolic 'is the u-topia that puts an end to the topologies of the soul and the body, man and nature, the real and the non-real, birth and death. In the symbolic operation, the two terms lose their reality' (SED, 133). Noting that 'Western thought cannot bear, and has at bottom never been able to bear, a void of signification, a non-place and a non-value' (SED, 234), Baudrillard enlists the notion of utopia as precisely such a non-place, ellipsis of value and eclipse of meaning. 'Utopia is that which, by the abolition of the blade and disappearance of the handle, gives the knife its force de frappe,' wrote Baudrillard (UB, 59), adapting an aphorism of Lichtenberg's. Utopia does not, then, represent a transcendent state, where present inadequacies are overcome. Indeed, 'utopia . . . would have nothing to do with the concept of alienation. It regards every man and every society as already totally there, at each social moment, in its symbolic exigency' (MP, 165). Likewise, even though 'the psychoanalytic (Lacanian) real is no longer given as substance, nor as a positive reference' (SED, 188), it is no closer to grasping utopia's challenge to the real. For 'The idea of the unconscious, like the idea of consciousness, remains an idea of discontinuity and rupture . . . t substitutes the irreversibility of a lost object and a subject forever "missing" itself, for the positivity of the object and the conscious subject' ([i]SED, 143).However decentred, the subject remains within the orbit of Western thought, with itssuccessive'topologies'(hell/heaven-subject/nature-conscious/unconscious), where the fragmented subject can only dream of a lost continuity. It will never get back to, or catch up with [rejoindre] utopia, which is not at all the phantasm of a lost order but, contrary to all the topologies of discontinuity and repression, the idea of a duelling order, of reversibility, of a symbolic order. (SED, 143-4)This, however, marks a fateful turn in the history of utopia as that which puts an end to 'the reality principle which is only the phantasm of the system and its indefinite reproduction' (MP, 167). For utopia has itself fallen prey to the 'limitless operation of the real' (LP, 72). 'The utopia of another society - as one could have dreamed of at the time of production - is literally impossible, since it is already here' in an era of simulation (Baudrillard, 1992a: 241). In a world where 'Everything belonging to the order of dream, utopia and phantasm is given expression, "realized"' (Baudrillard, 2004a: unpaginated), utopia has, paradoxically, been achieved. 'But is this really what an achieved utopia looks like? . . . Yes indeed! . . . There is no other' (A, 98). As Baudrillard (1998: 6) resignedly observes, 'From this point on, the problem in hand is not one of changing how life is lived, which was the maximal utopia, but one of survival, which is a kind of minimal utopia.'Passwords§ America
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.