Rewriting the future: the utopian impulse in 1970s’ feminism
Woman must write her self…Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history-by her own movement.
The future must no longer be determined by the past. (Hélène Cixous 1975)2
UTOPIA ON THE LEFT
The orientation toward the future (as opposed to the past) is one of the factors that most distinguishes progressive from conservative movements, the former striving to create something that doesn’t yet exist, the latter either trying to hold on to what currently is or to recreate something that used to be. The belief in the possibility of a future that is better than the past-a future in which the emancipatory impulses that remain latent in the present will no longer be suppressed, but set free-is the sustaining dynamic of any movement that not only assumes the need for change, but is actively working toward it. The difficulty faced by such a movement is sustaining the very principle on which it is predicated, namely the idea of the future as possibility rather than as preset goal. The difficulty, in other words, is to sustain the concept of utopia as process. In the face of external and internal challenges to legitimate both its ends and its means, it is all too easy for even the most progressive movement to foreclose process and construct an image of utopia as historical telos. The resulting tension between the impulse to create predictive utopias and a process-oriented belief in the emancipatory, but unpredictable,
outcome of unregulated utopian impulses, has been and remains an issue within the context of progressive politics.