Utopia, Totalitarianism, and the Will to Reason: Koestler’S Darkness at Noon

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
Part of the Modernism and … book series (MAND)


We have seen, in Conrad’s novel, that the will to empire arrives at an impasse, because the exilic-utopian imagination that drives it has reached an acute state of crisis, manifesting itself especially at the margins of the Empire. During the first, “archaic” phase of empire building, the will resolves its confrontation with otherness by either annihilating it or assimilating it by force. However, in later critical phases or periods of “self-doubt,” such as Modernism, the will often perceives this otherness as terrifying void, darkness, and death, drawing back from it. Consequently, it needs to devise new strategies of accomplishing its hegemonic objectives, while turning the terror of the void itself to “good” account whenever it deems it necessary. As I have already suggested, what has been called “Postmodernism” is precisely a strategy of returning to the will to power in its archaic, violent, and unashamed form. As a rule, these “returns” happen during periods of sociocultural stress, such as wars and revolutions. During such periods, the instruments that a median mentality has devised to put the brakes on archaic power will not only fail, but will also be made to serve precisely the kind of violent excesses that they were meant to restrain. Thus, traditional rationality and reasoning (as developed in Plato’s dialogs, for instance) will now be twisted to justify political totalitarianism, the modern avatar of the might-makes-right mentality. In turn, the exilic-utopian imagination will be restricted and made to serve the same interests of naked power.


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  1. 1.
    Arthur Koestler ([1941] 1968), Darkness at Noon, Translated by Daphne Hardy, Toronto, New York, London: Bantam Books p. 61. Furher page references are to this edition.Google Scholar

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© Mihai I. Spariosu 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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