Why Dream? - Marion's Current Favourites

Marion's favourite contributions from the 'Why Dream?' section.


An index can be found at the bottom of this page. Click here to view the index.

Posts are sorted in chronological order, with the newest at the top.

Dreaming as a Subversive Activity by Stephen Coleman

Posted on June 14th, 2012 by Marion

As society has grown older and systems of organising life have become more entrenched and seemingly unquestionable, there has been a great need for the utopian submission: ‘Let us imagine that life is not as it is, but as it one day might be. Let us inspect the unknown terrain of the future, as if we are about to inhabit it, as if it is an immediate alternative to the fading present.’…

The tyranny of realism (as if the historical present is somehow more intrinsically real than what is gone or what is to come) is subverted by the utopian who envisages a future which is freed from the apparently unchangeable relationships of the present.

The imagined future is a subversive force: the more who imagine a different kind of future, and imagine constructively, materially and determinedly, the more dangerous utopian dreams become. They grow from dreams to aims. Just as the scientist proceeds from speculative hypothesis to practical experimentation, so with social change, what begin as wild dreams, gut feelings, beautiful visions, emerge as movements to make the imagined real.

The enemy of the dream of better times to come is the ideologist of the present, armed in defence of the existing miseries with the claim that the prevailing relationships of oppression are immutable. How many rebels have surrendered their visions of great change under the weight of the dogma which insists that There Is No Alternative? Isolation from the mass conformity around us can eventually extinguish hope; the enormous burden of shoving history onwards can demoralise utopian activists, leading us from hope to bitterness. It is easy enough to succumb to the fallacy that there is nothing that can be done to change the world.

And yet, look how the world does change. When we began to write this book, the Berlin Wall, the police states of Eastern Europe, the rule of pseudo-socialist tyrants seemed like fixed features of history, entrenched for eternity. Had we been told that within a year these emblems of oppression would be no more, the editors of this book would have laughed – the insecure laughter of those who cannot see what is around the corner. The rapidity of the changes which have occurred since then will serve forever as a warning to those who comfort their conservative minds with assumptions about the grinding, dull, imperceptible slowness of historical change.

History can explode. And when it does it is ignited by those who have dared to dream, who have the courage to take on seemingly unbeatable odds, who are brave enough to demand the impossible.

© Stephen Coleman

An extract from the Introduction to ‘William Morris and News from Nowhere: a Vision for our Time’, edited by Stephen Coleman and Paddy O’Sullivan

Published by Green Books in 1990

View contributions index

Return to top