The end of utopia

The critique that is put forward today by politics almost always focuses on the materially determined living conditions of people as well as their unequal possibilities of being able to achieve prosperity through “performance”. For example, it is often complained that workers are denied a “fair” share of the progress achieved, women are disadvantaged in the labour market in terms of pay, post allocation and promotion opportunities, and that the chances of access and success of deprived population groups in the field of education are worse and thus their opportunities to achieve well - endowed positions are lower.

All of these and similar issues are about the fact that not everyone has the same opportunities to demonstrate their willingness and performance and to set themselves apart financially from others. But also in other areas of criticism of the given policy, financial arguments and such lack of social justice are in the foreground. For example, when it comes to questions of environmental policy or when it comes to policy - making with regard to attempts by people from war-torn and poverty-stricken regions to find accommodation in countries where the system of utilising human labour is functioning properly.

Human Ressources

What short-or long-term consequences on the prosperity of long-term residents have decisions made?

Who is more or less affected by this?

What financial consequences are acceptable?

It is always about money, financially defined inequality and so-called performance fairness.

All in all, criticism of the existing social circumstances thus moves almost entirely within the framework of ideas of a successful life, which are grounded in the premises of precisely these social conditions. A life that is characterized by success in the struggle of all against all for a position as far ahead as possible in the social ranks is considered to be successful. Since the competition for materially determined circumstances of life is understood as an unquestionable basic category of existence – quasi as a natural law – criticism can ultimately only articulate itself in the race against different fighters disadvantageous rules of the same.

The struggle for existence, which determines social reality right down to the last corner, is to be stylized into fair competition by changing the framework conditions, in which everyone is allowed to participate under the same conditions. It is demanded that the authorities – the state, its structures and the governing bodies subordinate to it – regulate the bringing down of the people in such a way that there is formal equality of opportunity between them. The aim is not to overcome the compulsion to have to fight for an attractive place in society, but only more Fairness in the organization of this struggle. In the end, it is only demanded that the need to earn life in competition with others and to put the needs for pleasure and love behind it, should all be subjected to the same degree.

Herbert Marcuse characterized this situation as early as 1967 as a “end of utopia. In a lecture he said at the time that, due to the level of productive forces achieved in the meantime, the possibilities of a

human society and its environment, that these new possibilities can no longer be imagined as a continuation of the old, no longer in the same historical continuum, that they rather presuppose a break with the historical continuum

With this statement, Marcuse wanted to point out that the material and intellectual possibilities achieved by technological innovations necessitate a crossing of the boundaries that the ruling Social system imposes on the ability to imagine a free society. Those who merely demand ideas of freedom and Justice, which are prevented by system-immanent counter-forces, but which would be quite feasible within the framework of the prevailing principles of order, do not move in utopian dimensions.

In this sense, the demand that the promises of the currently given social order may nevertheless be fulfilled does not go beyond the given order. It is merely an attempt to assert within the existing system the interests of those who, although the material and intellectual possibilities for the abolition of their disadvantage are already available in principle, continue to be over-advantaged. “Utopia, on the other hand, is a historical term, it refers to projects of social transformation that are considered impossible,” and thus it only begins where longings for coexistence are taken seriously and striven for, which exceed the boundaries of the imagination of freedom owed to the ruling System.

Marcuse argues that the material and intellectual forces for the elimination of poverty and misery, and the abolition of alienated labour could have been given. But in order for a truly “liberated society” to grow out of this circumstance, the courage of the members of society would be required to perceive and take seriously their repressed longing for cohabitation, characterized as naive and stupid, which transcends previously valid notions of freedom.

We are far from that, because”… as a vital, necessary need, the need for freedom does not exist or no longer exists in a large part of the same population in the developed countries of capitalism." And he concludes: if such a longing for the abolition of work is not given,

… if, on the contrary, there is a need for the continuation of work, even if it is no longer socially necessary; if the vital need for joy, for happiness, does not exist with a clear conscience, but rather the need to earn everything … if these vital needs do not exist or are suffocated by the repressive ones, what is to be expected is that the new technical possibilities will indeed become new possibilities for the repression of domination.


Lust and love instead of money and private property

In fact, notions of a community in which the coexistence of people is determined not formally, on the principle of performance and equality before the law, but in terms of content, on the communality of a good life, currently have any conjuncture. While socio-critical approaches continued into the 20th century. Today, such social utopias have largely disappeared from the picture since the 19th century, having drawn their strength from visions of ideal communities that, as a rule, did not come up with the view that individual achievements should determine people’s materially different social positions.

In the initial text for a series of “ideal communities”, the book “Utopia” by Sir Thomas Morus, which was published almost exactly 500 years ago, a competition for materially defined social positions does not occur at all.

This is also not necessary, since according to Morus, freedom and equality are secured by economic equality. Equality of the inhabitants of his island state Utopia means not only “equality before the law and equal right to public speech, but, more radically, equal distribution of property, which implies a renunciation of private property”.

Morus justifies this basic principle of his community, in which it is about the happy life of all inhabitants and not about the individual in competition with others, as follows:

Where there is still private property, where everyone attaches money to everything as a measure, hardly ever will a just and happy policy be possible, unless one wants to speak of Justice, where the best always happens to the worst, or of happiness, where everything is distributed among very few and where even these are not well in every respect, but the Rest leads a miserable existence.

Morus ' vision of a community is thus in clear contrast to the political ideas of one of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment, John Locke, who developed his theory of the state more than a century later. In contrast to that of Morus, however, it continues to shape our views of freedom and equality to this day and in the meantime appears to us simply as the most reasonable Form of regulating coexistence.

Locke posits in his political theory that people create the basis of their freedom and equality with other free people by appropriating something of what God has given to people in common through work. Accordingly, social freedom and equality are guaranteed for him by the agreement between the citizens to be allowed to acquire and accumulate private property by means of the expenditure of Labour.

Locke’s ideas form the basis for the social performance myth that shapes the consciousness of living people in this country – Empires deserve respect insofar as their possessions are based on actual performance. Accordingly, even in critical reflections on the prevailing social Situation, Morus ' radically rejected individualism of property coupled with money and the money economy is hardly ever called into question. And that the inhabitants of Utopia were " astonished, even outraged, at the absurd behaviour of the people who rich those to whom they owe nothing and to whom they are not obliged, for no other reason than because they are rich, as gods worship …", seems to most people today rather irritating.

The impossibility given in Utopia of being able to distinguish itself from others through more individual ownership is not ethically-morally justified by Morus. To him, the Prohibition of private property simply seems indispensable in order to enable the community he has designed, whose supreme maxim is the happy life for all. Just because this condition is fulfilled in Utopia, he holds this state

… not only for the best, but also for the single … who is entitled to claim the title “Commonwealth” with full right. If one speaks elsewhere of the common good, one has everywhere only his personal good in mind; here, in Utopia, on the other hand, where there is no private property, one cares seriously only for the interest of the general public.

Elsewhere, individuals can “… despite the flourishing of the state, " they will certainly be in need if they do not constantly fight for their advantage. Thus, they are forced to think more about themselves and the optimization of their personal Situation than about the community. In Utopia, however,,

where everything belongs to everyone, everyone is undoubtedly firmly convinced that no one will miss anything for their private needs, provided only that the state stores are filled. … And although no one possesses anything, all are rich. Could there be a greater wealth than being completely free from all worry, serene mind and calm heart … and to live without worrying about your own livelihood?

Community instead of society

In the sense of the pre-Christian philosopher Epicurus, the good life and happiness in Utopia is realized on the basis of premises, communality and a pleasure that arises from a life freed from worries. The pleasure-oriented life of the inhabitants of Utopia is not in conflict with community law.

Morus postulates that only a political life can be a good life. In contrast to today’s views, which follow Locke’s guidelines, political life for Morus does not, however, primarily manifest itself in being subject to rules and laws that apply equally to all, but in the maxim of absolute communality, which is reflected many years later in what Friedrich Hegel writes about love. In the sense of Hegel, freedom does not mean being free of restrictive rules by which human coexistence is organized on a rational basis. And for him, freedom is also not fulfilled in the possibility of enforcing selfish desires and interests, but in the affirmation of one’s own subjectivity and the desires arising from it, but in being able to surrender oneself to others inclined towards friendship or love and to equate their desires with one’s own.

“In friendship and love … it is not one-sided, but is limited in relationship to Another, white but in this limitation as ourselves.“By affirming and expressing itself and its inherent need for relationship with other people, the subject recognizes the fragility of its autonomous Status and thereby recovers itself at a higher level. If freedom is thus understood as the “ability to love”, the apparent contradiction of self - love and love for others dissolves as dialectically linked antipodes of a life in love.

In this sense, law and contract have only minor significance for the coexistence of the utopians.

In their eyes, the community of nature is as good as an alliance and binds people to each other stronger and more firmly through mutual goodwill than through contracts, stronger and more firmly through the mind than through words.

Utopia is not a form of government in which people get along with each other on the basis of rules-compliant behaviour, but a community based on a basic attitude of the members of the community towards fellow human beings and the natural environment that seems largely irrational to our current consciousness. In truth, Morus does not describe a society in which social life is guaranteed by formal rules, but an actual community in which qualitatively different premises apply, namely Lust and love. This reveals the truly utopian character of his Vision of human coexistence, which clearly transcends the utopian Moment of alternative constructions of reason!


It does not need to be explicitly emphasized that such a non-hierarchical, reconciled coexistence of people with their social and natural environment, as Morus proposes, is just as incompatible with bourgeois-capitalist society of today’s manifestation as it was with the social conditions existing during his lifetime. Today, it is almost impossible to escape the social postulate of a largely selfish interests-oriented way of life.

Nevertheless, the text sequence from The Threepenny Opera by Bert Brecht, which refers to this circumstance, is also only partially true: “we would be good instead of so raw, but the conditions, they are not so”. In fact, systemic violence does not stop with the compulsion to submit to the prevailing conditions and to lead a life that corresponds to them.

The social order not only compels individuals to behave in accordance with the system, it also compels them to adopt a corresponding attitude. In order to be recognized as a reasonable member of society, it is necessary to “integrate"the ruling order. It is about recognizing the social premises as “natural” and only feeling comfortable within a spectrum of behavior that correlates with them. To be a member of society is never merely to be subject to the social System; at the same time it is always to be a bearer of it.

Gewalt macht Bedrohung

In a Form reminiscent of the well-known “Stockholm syndrome”, individuals derive from the living conditions imposed on them a “model of Subjectivation”, “a force field, a pull, a telos, to which individuals aspire, a standard by which they judge their actions and leave, a daily retreat with which they work on themselves, and a truth generator in which they are to recognize themselves”. And only those who sufficiently train these requirements of adequate consciousness and act as loyal participants in the hegemonic discourse will be recognized as a reasonable subject.

Since subjects arise through the internalization of the premises and structures of the ruling order, the general consciousness regarding the idea of what subjects are, what they can do, in what way they have to discipline and shape themselves and where their respective limits lie, is a correlate of the given power relations – a change of the social order requires other subjects. By means of their attachment to what is currently reasonably valid, subjects are bound to the power relations and thereby maintain them at the same time in the given Form.

From the fact that subjects are both an effect and a condition of social relations, arises however also your freedom potential: its emancipation from the ruling procedure begins with the doubt of himself as a realization of the ruling reason, coupled with the courage to risk the recognition as adjusted-reasonable society element.

The central educational appeal: become reasonable!

Educational efforts in the so-called enlightened age are founded on educational theory with the aim of promoting the maturity of people. By imparting knowledge and enabling them to link it together in a meaningful way, they should be able to react sensibly to the demands resulting from social circumstances.

Reason, and not mere thinking fed by faith, unreflected emotions, or thoughtlessness, are supposed to determine people’s attitudes and behavior. They are to become subjects whose way of life is based on autonomously made, reasonable decisions. And they should become immune to attempts to influence ideological, political or other seducers whose power is based on exploiting the immaturity of people.

Let's cut ourselves free from Authority

The ultimate goal of all educational interventions that follow the Subtext “become reasonable” is to enable people to question the circumstances that determine their lives, to confront them confidently and to develop perspectives for a more rational way of life. By helping individuals to become autonomous and capable of criticism in this way, the aim is to prevent cohabitation from being shaped by unjustified power structures, hierarchies and dependencies.

Both the idea of empowering individuals to autonomy by promoting their reason and the Ideal of democracy, based on the co-determination of all states, are derived from the ideas of the Enlightenment. In the wake of the departure from the idea of a fateful surrender to Providence, which began in the first approaches in the Renaissance, the idea of a sovereign power of self-realization inherent in man became increasingly established in the Enlightenment.

Faith in God as the substantiality of truth was disposed of just like any other Supra-temporal and ontologically based rational orientation. Instead, the subject was enthroned as a sovereign human existence. It has been postulated that the consciousness of being an autonomous and rational subject facing the world is inherent in man “from the outset” and can indeed be corrupted by the prevailing power relations but never completely extinguished.

The subject assumed to be autonomous per se and endowed with free will assumed the position that God held in pre-modern metaphysics. Thus the subject was stylized into an instance that can draw from itself the knowledge of right and wrong. In this sense, it is now understood that subjects can be misled and to some extent alienated from their sovereignty, but it is impossible to rob them completely of it. While it is possible to mislead you by misinformation to wrong judgments, if correct knowledge is made available to you, you can correct such misjudgments based on your ability to reason.

Education-oriented pedagogy is oriented in all its efforts to the subject interpreted in this way. Since it has become an omnipotent judge of right and wrong, being educated means becoming aware of its status as a sovereign authority through the progressive release of its own potentials of reason and autonomy. It is therefore the task of pedagogy to awaken the desire for self-determination of subjects who are not yet sufficiently conscious of themselves by encouraging them to acquire knowledge and the ability to link it in a reasonable form.

However, the hope of gaining freedom through the emancipation of “objective truths” and the reliance on the autonomous subject and its possibility of being able to recognize the right life through a reasonable balancing of knowledge has not been realized. “The promise of the Enlightenment to gain freedom through the exercise of reason has turned into a domination of this very reason … which increasingly usurps the place of freedom”.

With the Inauguration of the subject as governor of reason, its character has changed in the long term. Reason was deprived of its objective content, including The Associated possibility of being able to argue and develop on its basis a reconciled relationship between individuals and their fellow-World.

Before the stylization of the subject as the “point of reference for all being”, being reasonable had meant aligning life with the requirements of an instance inaccessible to subjective evaluation; the question of the good life had to be answered without consideration for subjective interests. On the other hand, the reason demanded and promoted pedagogically is inseparably linked to the subject and his “self-interests”; in the final consequence, it is now considered reasonable who is able to recognize and pursue what benefits him. The consequence of such a concept of reason is that reason is regressed into an Instrument of calculating individual or group - specific advantages and disadvantages.

Reason has changed from a theory of “good life” that can be grasped in terms of content to a calculation of the safeguarding of (Super)life in the context of social circumstances, the basic principles of which cannot be questioned with the help of this (instrumental) reason. If there is no point of reference outside the Status quo for assessing what is given, criticism can only move within the limits of the Status quo.

If only the measure of instrumental reason is available for the question of what a “good life” is, the answer can only be the achievement of an advantageous Position in the context of given possibilities of shaping life. The consequence of this is a system of human life in which everyone must degrade all other human beings as well as nature as a means of enforcing their interests. It is then reasonable to regard everything “outside itself” as a resource for a life that is considered successful. In the end, instrumental reason is only a tool of strategy within the general competition it sets in motion and legitimizes.

Her mit den schönen Leben!

From such an understood reason no counter-force to the given power relations can arise; on the contrary, it is itself an expression of the power which expresses itself in the dictate of competition and enforces a way of life which is concerned with selfish advantage. Correspondingly absurd is the expectation that the educational appeal could contribute to the (independent) use of one’s own mind to overcome prevailing power relations. The development of (utopian) ideas of Good Life, which overcome the given power relations, is simply not possible without the removal of the corset of instrumental reason. Utopia requires a reference quantity that is beyond the valid horizon of reason and can claim general plausibility.

Lust and love as the basis of good life?

The question now is whether for the finding of such a reference, which is superior to empirical reality, the “Epicureanism of this world, the … as an extremely un-church heaven stands over Utopia”, can represent a help. Can the hedonistic life principle of the utopians, outlined further ahead, with its desire and community orientation, provide the Trans - subjectivist reference point that can open up a perspective beyond the prevailing power relations?

After all, the pursuit of pleasure and closeness, in the sense of a desire for the satisfaction of physical and psychological needs, is an impulse that is also inherent in other living beings and thus embeds man in the overall context of nature. And indeed, no social System has ever succeeded in reducing people to mere functional units “free of desire.” Despite all the approaches that go in this direction, Lust and love always break ground.


However, it cannot be overlooked that the forms of satisfaction that arose from the impulse to Lust in different times correlated to the highest degree with historical-social conditions. In this respect, therefore, caution is absolutely necessary: human desire, longings, emotions, even sensual bodily sensation are always “children of time” and its circumstances. There is no original, non-socially formed being of man. Even the form in which pleasure comes into its own does not follow an innocent-natural program, but is always derived from the conditions of life imposed on people.

In this sense, even the originators and early representatives of hedonistic teachings, who see the Good Life realized where joy, pleasure and enjoyment are at the center of the way of life, emphasized that the form of life they promote cannot be realized by a ruthless and unreflected satisfaction of the desires for pleasures.

Already the first Proponent of the hedonistic lifestyle, the philosopher Aristippos of Cyrene, who became known, demanded in this sense as well as Epicurus, who developed the idea about a century later, a critical and reflexive handling of pleasure. According to Epicurus: “Lust does not control who abstains, but who enjoys it, but does not allow himself to be carried away; just as ship and horse do not control who does not use it, but who directs it wherever he wants.”

Lust erleben

In addition, Epicurus in particular has always pointed out that pleasure can only be the basis of a good life in connection with the postulate of friendship. The “life in friendship” propagated by him points in the same direction as the maxim of communality in Morus. From the perspective of hedonistic philosophy, man is only capable of Lust and love when he can perceive and accept the contributions of his fellow - world to his own joy in life and realize that genuine Lust is not possible without attention to others.

In moments of intense pleasure life, the boundary between self and non-self becomes permeable, for a short time the human being immerses himself in the early childhood consciousness of Allidentity given before the formation of the subject status – for a few moments he does not feel himself as an isolated social monad. The existential experience that actual satisfaction of one’s own needs is only possible through the embedding of one’s own impulses of pleasure in the pursuit of pleasure inherent in the whole of nature gives an idea of the recognition of connectedness with one’s social and natural fellow-World. True desire is indivisible, either it includes all(s), or it is not.

A hedonism in the Tradition of Epicurus is thus incompatible with the current social order based on self-interest and competition. He is neither compatible with the psychological distress of human beings, as dependents of commodity society, to have to rush after the satisfaction of imposed “needs”, nor with the systemically nourished Illusion that pleasure can be realized at the expense of the displeasure of others. Within the currently prevailing “rationality of the subject accountable only to himself”, true pleasure is not attainable – what only comes into its own is the commodity Lust.

Where the pursuit of pleasure can lead within the framework of a reason degraded to the Instrument of self-interest is depicted in a drastic way in the texts of Marquis de Sade. In his work, he paints with relentless consistency what it ultimately means “… to use one’s mind without the guidance of another”. It is not without reason that Adorno and Horkheimer characterize de Sade and Nietzsche as “relentless perfectors” of the Enlightenment.

The Arrangements described by de Sade for maximizing selfish sexual arousal reflect with frightening clarity the structures of the social order owed to instrumental reason. For The Libertines in the texts de Sades, everything and everyone is a mere means to the end of their bizarre amusements; for them, fellow human beings are only objects of humiliation. This attitude becomes abundantly clear when in” 120 days of Sodom " one of the protagonists formulates that for the sensation of pleasure the

Pleasure of comparison is decisive, a pleasure that arises only from the sight of misfortune …. Only when I see someone who enjoys nothing of what I have and suffers, can I tell myself that I am happier than he is.

There is no objective measure of pleasure, joy and happiness in enlightened bourgeois society; they can only be understood as relative quantities; pleasure-or what is held for it – gains its positive meaning only from the Relation to the displeasure of others!

Educational promotion of Lust?

In the light of the previous Argumentation, it makes little sense to ask people to make Lust the reference point for their way of life. The pedagogical attempt at persuasion, but please to understand that an orientation towards pleasure can make it possible to recognize an order beyond the overbidding dynamics of the given society, would ultimately only be an appeal to the subject to come to reason.

Sensibly” on the way " Lust, however, is trapped in the structures of power and can at best give off a surrogate of that Lust that opens the window for looking at all-identity. It is not possible to convince someone by reasonable arguments that a particular piece of music will put him in an excellent mood, that a certain image will cause him extraordinary feelings, that a certain meditation technique will bring about his enlightenment, or that a sophisticated sexual practice will give him extraordinary excitement.

Marguis de sade

Nor does it make sense to want to introduce someone to a lustful life with the help of reasonable arguments. Lust has something to do with the courage to put its subject status at risk and “surrender”. Approaching the lustful life is nothing that can theoretically be anticipated or brought about by pedagogical-didactic measures, but is only possible by steps of trust. Lust cannot be led pedagogically, but only lovingly seduced. And the seduction to Lust can only give way to those who are on ' vibrations of his … Self and certainty of being” is willing and dares to temporarily let go of reason, which ensures its recognition as a sovereign subject. For this it is necessary to rediscover the “childish” longing for a “life in connectedness”, which we have learned to displace from the horizon of our desires.

If pedagogy really wanted to support adolescents and adults in discovering and taking seriously their longing for a life that is “oriented towards pleasure and love”, it would have to make an effort in the sense of Horkheimer “… to restore to those buried dimensions of reason their right, which point beyond their instrumental limitation … and to free the intellect from its dependence on rational formalism”.

In order to promote such a non-utilitarian orientation of reason, pedagogy would have to see itself as an advocate of those aspects of the human being which, in the course of their adaptation to social normality, they had to displace into the realm of unreason. In other words, pedagogy would ultimately have to refuse the function attributed to it of integrating people into the social order.

Pedagogy is expected to lead people through more or less offensive forms of influence to become reasonably valid participants in social discourse. Although the question of which pedagogical interventions are adequate and effective is answered quite differently, and depending on the socio-political orientation, the goals to be achieved through pedagogical interventions are also defined differently.

Ultimately, however, pedagogical action is understood from all sides as an influence on subjects with the aim of internalizing the ruling reason. This certainly also applies to the pedagogical doctrine, which is currently rapidly gaining importance, according to which individuals are to put on themselves the blinders of instrumental reason in the Form of so-called “self-determined learning”.

The instrumentalization of people into a means for foreign purposes merely changes from a foreign to a self - instrumentalization – people should no longer only submit to their formation, they should themselves “proactively” advance it.

Even if, parallel to changes in the internal structures of the bourgeois-capitalist system, the methods and justifications of pedagogical action thus change again and again, the basic function of pedagogy, which consists in adapting people to the requirements of the system, remains unchanged. This means, however, that Lust is not only an “ignored”, but a “rejected” Dimension of pedagogy and must ultimately be!