This is an ambitious book. Mark Featherstone has written an intellectual history that runs from Aristotle to Žižek, with most of the big beards being nodded at along the way. The argument rotates around the question of utopia, and broadly adopts what might now be called the standard “postmodern” diagnosis. That is to say, as soon as we attempt to bring imagination into reality, repression results. All the trains to the Promised Land end up at Auschwitz. To this he adds a structuralist understanding of identity, within which “us” is all too often premised upon “them.” Put these two together and you get a nice psychoanalysis of utopianism. The commitment to perfectionism means that the utopian (individually and collectively) enters a cycle of anxiety and paranoia about those who might be ordered, and those who are deficient. The horror of the others,...

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