The Good Society
Utopia expired in the final weeks of the memorable year, 1989. She had been poorly for some time, and few attempts were made to save her life. On the contrary, a sense of good riddance spread from libraries stocked with ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ and ‘The God that Failed’ to the Round Tables and then the streets of Warsaw and Budapest, Leipzig and Prague. Thus she went out, surprisingly perhaps, with a bang and not with a whimper. She? One might well think of Utopia as the tenth muse, the muse of dreams, albeit of dreams which have a tendency to turn into nightmares. ‘The real question is,’ Joachim Fest wrote about recent events, ‘whether all dreams of a New Order, be they oriented to the past or to a “goal of history” inevitably end in terror whatever their original motive may have been’. And he gave the answer too: ‘What is left of the Utopian efforts is little more than an unending trail of horror which has imprinted itself on our minds as a traumatic experience.’ The ‘harvest of sorrow’, Gulag, Auschwitz. Total visions of social order produce totalitarian realities. Who is to say whether this could happen again? But for the moment, Utopia is gone, and another muse, Clio, far from having suffered her own demise, is back in full force. Some begin to feel that if anything we are seeing too much history after the collapse of the old assumptions.