Accepted Paper:

Utopian dimensions of European (re)construction  


Thomas Wolfe (University of Minnesota)

Paper short abstract:

  My paper's big theme is the reconstruction of European societies after World War II. I argue that everyday life is not something that simply started automatically after a disruption like wartime, but was something that took shape in interaction with many strands of the imaginary, including the utopian.

Paper long abstract:

This essay asserts the relevance of utopian texts to the social imaginary of postwar European societies. It operates in a scholarly register that might best be described as historical phenomenology or philosophical anthropology, specifically the style of discourse present in the sweeping works of Charles Taylor, whose books "Sources of the Self" and "A Secular Age" provide the setting for my discussion below. The most direct influences of Taylor can be found in my argument that the utopian imagination was a crucial part of the cultural background for the emergence of European institutions in the 1950s and 60s, and that one of the most important developments in the long stretch of European modernity was the appearance of "ordinary life" as a cultural model in the 16th and 17th centuries. This brief essay is part of a larger project, which is to suggest a way to think of the place of postwar Europe within the evolving problematic of ordinary life.

Panel P008
Realism, imaginary, and ambivalences of utopia