ABSTRACT

Cultural studies works with a very particular concept of culture, what Raymond Williams calls a ‘realized signifying system’ (1981a). While there is more to life than signifying systems, it is nevertheless the case that ‘it would … be wrong to suppose that we can ever usefully discuss a social system without including, as a central part of its practice, its signifying systems, on which, as a system, it fundamentally depends’ (207). Making the world signify is an attempt to (partially) fix the meaning of social reality. Dominant ways of making the world meaningful, produced by those with the power to make their meanings circulate in the world, can generate the ‘hegemonic discourses’, which may come to assume an authority over the ways in which we see, think, communicate and act in the world and become the ‘common sense’ which directs our actions or become that against which our actions are directed and against which we struggle. As we shall see, especially in chapter 6, the act of reading utopian fiction is not like listening to a meaning already constituted, the mere expression of what already exists, it is rather the articulation of something new, and it is only in such moments of articulation that we will find the possibility of the politics of utopian fiction.