Welcoming community. Concrete utopia

In 16 reports, Lucas Geisler reports on civil society initiatives, projects, and people working on the tangible utopia of a different and open society. The second excerpt from the book deals with the theoretical inclusion of reports in the Welcome Society – an exclusive introductory publication.

to Luke Geisler Wednesday October 5, 2022, 3:00 pm|Last update: Sunday, 02/10/2022, at 11:34 am Reading time: 8 minutes |

From a historical perspective, utopias are an expression of the shortcomings and grievances of their home communities. But in addition to critical analysis of the present, they are constructive anti-reality images. Thomas More coined the term with his island story “Utopia” from 1516. In doing so, he created new vocabulary. The etymology of the word is derived from the ancient Greek meaning nowhere (ou “no” and tópos “place”). However, there is a second derivation, namely from the Greek word eu, which means “good”. Utopia can be interpreted either as no place, that is, purely imaginary, or as a good place. This book does not depict fantasy. It is about specific places. Yet what is fanciful is the utopia of a welcome community.

It’s not just bullshit or just a crush, not yet in the sense that it could exist if we did something about it.Ernst Bloch

For Ernst Bloch, Utopia is about the concrete realization of possibilities and tradition. He asks about a personal utopian thought job. For him, every society is a kind of anticipation of something that has not yet worked or is yet to come. Utopia already exists in every society. Social utopias mostly revolve around human happiness. This is not subjective, in the sense that it is possible individually, but depends on social conditions and therefore must be understood mutually, i.e. as something between people. However, what this social happiness is can only be limited to utopian thinking. It should not and should not be fixed. I don’t want to specify what a welcome community utopia is either. The establishment of a society based on solidarity must be jointly negotiated. But the existing inequality relations can be viewed as a sense of possibility. Concrete utopia is always the criterion of criticism first and foremost. Favorable conditions must be created for the city of utopia. Ernst Bloch, as a philosopher of a possible future, talks a lot about the present and the past. Because utopia is inseparable from it, but it is an expectation that must always have a connection. In doing so, Bloch never stays in theory, but rather the personality of thought in a concrete utopia is theory to practice. Bloch has stuck to the search for the true utopia all his life. First when he emigrated to the United States, where he wrote his main work The Principle of Hope, then in the German Democratic Republic and finally in the Federal Republic. He died in Tübingen on August 4, 1977. What remains is a possible future in the past and present. Contemplation of concrete utopias begins at the level of small struggles, because they are also capable of creating solidarity.

French philosopher Michel Foucault begins with those small struggles, but takes a different approach. While Bloch instead describes the temporal construction of a concrete utopia, Foucault relies on a spatial concept. The concrete utopia has not yet been realized in Bloch, but it is rooted in the present. But Foucault writes that we are in an “age of the simultaneous,” that is, what happens at the same time. He describes this era as “near and far, juxtaposition, separation.” In his view, we are in a moment “where the world experiences itself less as a great life developing through time, and more as a network connecting its points and traversing its interweaving.” Why is this important? There is a frontier system here and now that questions the biological life of people, but there are also other spaces, countermovements, etc. that are not in the future but are already here and now. Foucault understands utopias as “places without real place” and thus adopts the etymological derivation of utopias as no place. Based on this, he developed a new concept:

There are also – and perhaps in every culture, in every civilization – real places, effective places that are drawn to the organization of society, so to speak, opposite loci or buttresses, an already realized utopia in which real places within culture are represented at the same time, contested and turn, places Out of all places, so to speak, although it can already be located. Because these places are so different from all the places they reflect or speak of, I call it heterogeneity, in contrast to utopia.”

These heterogeneous spacers are other spaces, functional and real spaces that exist in the present but are on the periphery and function quite differently. By doing so, they are building real and effective counter-images – without going back to the future. You have a tangible place. These other spaces could be Foucault’s gardens, children’s hideouts, cemeteries or ships. However, other spaces can also serve to exclude people who have been categorized as “different” from society, such as prisons, psychiatric institutions, or nursing homes.

I would like to revitalize the EU of utopias, that is, the good, of other spaces and portray these other good spaces in a very concrete way. Welcome Community tells of people and projects that are concretely opposed to other good spaces of prevailing racial social structures and colonial-style border systems. It is located on the outskirts and between the spaces of society. A welcome community temporal horizon is the claim that these other good spaces are emerging from the shadow of current reality and claiming their place in the midst of civil society.

Luke Geisler
welcome community
Concrete utopia
ISBN: 978-3-96238-393-0
Soft cover, 192 pages
Release date: 06.10.2022

Harald Welzer, who founded FUTURZWEI with Dana Giesecke, is taking a similar direction. It calls for the smallest possible changes in the situation rather than a major shift. For him, this is a kind of realistic gymnastics, and it’s also about building utopian-themed illusory worlds, but through a revolution, or better: several revolutions on a small scale, that take the normative claim of good seriously. For him, “individual designs and tests are not convincing because it would be nice to have them, but because they exist, you can look at them and try them and try them. The sum total of these applied “micro-transformations” or concrete utopias result in normative revolutions, a mosaic of successful improvements in the world – not just improvement world. And the great utopia became a different world—many stories in so many places.”

Following Bloch, Foucault, and Welzer, this book deals with the growth of the new in the niches of the old, with the embryonic forms of different social coexistence, liberation, and self-care. The reports in the book, which FUTURZWEI calls “success stories,” are exactly that: other spaces, outlets, and seed forms generated by initiatives. They start from the dystopian reality, but are trying to create something else. Don’t tell a linear story. Each report, feature, and digression is self-contained and can therefore be read on its own. It is assembled by the idea of ​​depicting the concrete utopia of this society. I call them a welcoming community.

At the same time, a welcoming society differs from a simple culture of welcome. Because the so-called culture of welcome of 2015 and 2016 went hand in hand with the dismantling of asylum. There is no doubt that “the dominant forces in state, politics and the media, in combination with the right-wing populist arguments of the CSU and AfD, have done a remarkable job of stifling the initial positive consensus and broad openness toward the immigration movement.” Migration, especially from North Africa and West Asia, has been constructed as a social, economic, and ‘civilizing’ burden. In this way, the culture of welcoming faced a created moral panic, in which a threatening “culture” was evoked and an identity crisis evoked. Politicians from other parties have also seized on this narrative and imagined “protecting the borders and upper borders of asylum and deportation to war zones.” The federal government has maintained a superficially pragmatic path with Merkel’s statement, “We can do it.” However, the government’s actions towards the local solidarity practices that have come to be known as the “welcoming culture” have never gone beyond this superficiality.

But the solidarity practices of civil society continued. In order to reach the tangible utopia of a welcoming society, it is necessary to have many small tangible utopias. Taken together, they must develop so much potency that they are not just a culture, but arise out of real and efficacious structures that have found a different society. As a reader, you embark on a journey that you can shape yourself and determine which path you choose. Some reports may appeal to some more, others less. But in general, the hope is that you, too, will soon become the protagonist: in such a report, a success story. Because a “welcoming community” should be understood as an invitation to participate in, influence, and make real and effective in a complex social context.

The first excerpt was published by MiGAZIN on October 5, 2022. The book can be ordered from oekom Verlag or from all traditional online platforms and local bookstores.

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