Finding hope in hopeless times

Copson, Lynne (2022). Finding hope in hopeless times. In: van Klink, Bart; Soniewicka, Marta and van den Broeke, Leon eds. Utopian Thinking in Law, Politics, Architecture and Technology: Hope in a Hopeless World. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, pp. 19–37.



There has been a retreat from hope to desire in utopian theorising in late modernity, aided by a contemporary climate which encourages the separation of fact from value in social enquiry. Fears of authoritarianism associated with holistic visions of the good society have given way to piecemeal approaches to social reform at the expense of more radical transformation, while utopia has shifted from being viewed as a goal to an open-ended process. Drawing extensively on the work of Ruth Levitas, particularly that of utopia as method, I argue for the development of this method as a means of translating abstract expressions of desire into concrete articulations of hope. This is done by tracing the historical development of utopia since the nineteenth century within social enquiry, situating the emergence of utopia as method as a response to problems within the contemporary production of knowledge. I then apply this in the context of criminal justice policy as a particularly illuminating example, to demonstrate both how the current approach to producing knowledge serves to marginalise more radical responses to social problems and the potential of the utopian method for transcending these issues.

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