A convergence between Marxian socialism and ecosocialism can help us envision a remedy to the deep troubles of our time. In this essay, I take utopia as that convergence. As articulated by the maverick philosopher, Ernst Bloch, the Marxist tradition is implicitly utopian. In this “warm stream” of the Marxist tradition, utopia provides orientation and explores the realm of the possible. It is first and foremost a catalyst for social change. It propels agency in the form of forward-looking thought, critique and engagement with the status quo. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, what is called for is bold and imaginative thinking. In order to live up to this task, ecosocialism should embrace utopianism.
Marxian socialism...has its own a utopian character. This consists chiefly in the transcendence of alienation through a classless socialist society. In such a state of freedom, human beings can develop and flourish as fully-actualized individuals. A socialist society would be both free and equal, built on a bedrock of meaningful labor. In sum, Marx’s utopia, encapsulates human freedom as a precondition for creativity and cooperation in a society where economic antagonisms have ceased to exist.
In the 20th century, German utopian philosopher, Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), re-theorized Marxism to add a spiritual, forward-looking dimension in the form of utopia. Bloch contended that Marxism ought to go beyond the mere analysis of capitalism — dubbed “cold stream” — and speak of a better world: the “warm stream.” Bloch’s three-volume magnum opus, The Principle of Hope (1986), frames utopia as an integral part of autonomous and creative human being-in-the-world. To be human means to construct utopias against the status quo.