Hope Abolishes

Hope Abolishes

~ by Patrick W. Huff ~

Hope Abolishes: A Philosophical Review of Everything for Everyone and the Return of the Utopian Imaginary

Hope Abolishes

“…I am. We are. That is enough. Now we have to begin…”

Ernst Bloch – The Spirit of Utopia

“…Still there are seeds to be gathered, and room in the bag of stars…”

Ursula K. Le Guin – The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

Hope Abolishes: A Philosophical Review of Everything for Everyone and the Return of the Utopian Imaginary

Practice often precedes theory. With the continuing cycles of regional and global uprisings inaugurated in the magic year of 2011, the radical imagination has gained the space to breathe again. One important factor in this that often goes unconsidered is not only the rejection of capitalist realism but the withering of a certain leftist nostalgia for state communism. A Nietzschean parable has it that “…after Buddha was dead, they still showed his shadow in a cave for centuries—a colossal, horrible shadow. God is dead, but given the way people are, there may still be caves for millennia in which his shadow is displayed. –And we—we must still defeat his shadow as well!” (1974, p. 167). Likewise, even after its formal demise the shadow of state communism has lingered not only as a cautionary tale told by capitalists to frighten the children of the bourgeoisie but also as a perpetual impasse for the radical imagination. Part of the impasse with capitalist realism is not so much the inability to imagine the end of capitalism but rather the inability to imagine society beyond the state. The state is an easy answer to the question of the organization of social production and reproduction sans capitalism. But Soviet style state socialism has suffered the verdict of history as a spectacular human and ecological tragedy. So, an impoverished leftist imagination is left with bad options.

Communism wins in M.E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi’s Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072, which brilliantly liberates the radical imagination from the duopoly of capitalism and state socialism and offers in their place the free abundance of the commune. In contrast to the dreary bureaucratic brutality of the old Soviet Union, Everything for Everyone presents a vibrant, libertarian and convivial “community of freely associated individuals”, brimming with joie de vivre. O’Brien and Abdelhadi have crafted a novel of utopian realism, an exemplary answer to Ursula K. Le Guin’s (2014) powerful call for “…writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.” Using the language of Mark Fisher (2018), we might say this is a novel in the vein of his acid communism, simultaneously initiating a corrosive breach in the prison walls of capitalist realism, whilst offering a heady consciousness-raising reinvigoration of the utopian imaginary. To be sure, capitalist realism, the belief in the eternity of capitalism, still holds sway in many quarters but in recent years its grip has loosened. This opening certainly has much to do with the ongoing and intensifying series of interrelated political, economic, and ecological crises generated by neoliberal capitalism over the last fifty years.

Everything for Everyone is not an act of prediction but rather a metafictional effort at shaping the future through an imaginative intervention in the present, articulating a radical politics of hope. After providing a brief description of its general structure and content, I delve deeper into the novel’s rich conceptual layers through an examination of the practical-theoretical categories of abolition, communization, assembly, and commune. Engaging with the novel’s metafictional conceit, I excavate the meaning of these categories in relation to actual past and present social struggles, drawing on the writings of Ernst Bloch and Ursula K. Le Guin as key interlocutors. To be clear, I do not claim to unveil what the authors really mean but rather I approach the text as an inspiring springboard for ideas and for extending comradely discourse, whilst maintaining fidelity to the novel’s core thematic thrust. It is through this metafictional juncture that I bring Bloch’s philosophy of hope into dialogue with the novel’s contents. With Bloch, we can read Everything for Everyone as an immanent critique of the present through an imaginative projection of latent possibilities contained as historical traces within the four cardinal categories that thematize the novel’s utopian future. I then turn to Le Guin to outline broad general tendencies of the utopian imaginary. Through her engagement with philosophical Taoism, Le Guin delineates four broad and persistent modalities of utopian/dystopian thought. I situate Everything for Everyone within a—to use Le Guin’s playful wording—utopiyin mode. This notion of the utopiyin illuminates relatively neglected areas of the utopian/dystopian imaginary beyond simple chaos and order.


O’Brien and Abdelhadi present Everything for Everyone as an oral history commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the New York Commune’s founding in the year 2052. This brilliant device allows the novel’s metafictional narrative to simultaneously offer nuanced character studies and detailed world-building across its introduction and twelves chapters. An introductory account of the “pre-history of the commune” references real world events such as the 2008 financial crisis. The authors and their publisher, Common Notions, appear as future versions of themselves, and O’Brien and Abdelhadi alternate roles as lead interviewer in each chapter. Through a brief biographical sketch, we learn that, though contributing where they could, O’Brien and Abdelhadi played relatively minor roles in the events leading to the establishment of the New York Commune.

The narrative sets up a complex metafictional temporality between past, present, and hoped for future, a future wherein latent utopian possibilities have been actualized. The world of the commune is a world in recovery from the deep ravages of capitalism. The characters or interviewees comprise a diverse cross-section of individuals who, in various ways, experienced or directly participated in the upheavals that shaped the era of the commune. By the time of the insurrections that initiate the processes of revolutionary transformation, human society and the rest of nature are in cataclysmic decline. Unprecedented economic upheavals, new and vicious plagues, massive ecological breakdown, famine, and war comprise the historical context experienced by most of the interview participants. Like many works of utopian science-fiction, Everything for Everyone is as much an account of the contemporary scene as it is a speculation on the future. Trauma and healing are significant thematic threads running through the novel. As scholars and activists, O’Brien and Abdelhadi’s real-life engagements with radical politics give the narrative a strong sense of verisimilitude.

The life-histories of the characters illustrate the many intersecting lines of oppression and exploitation associated with contemporary systems of gender, race, class, ethnicity, citizenship, age, and disability. Most of the characters lived through the chaotic death throes of capitalism and the ascendency of the commune. Take Miss Kelley, for instance, a Black trans woman, who aided the survival of the revolution in New York by helping to organize sex workers into an agile logistics network for the procurement and distribution of food, medicine, and other needed good across the city. In full metafictional form, the authors explain that the book’s title was inspired by their interview with Miss Kelley’s reflections on the meanings of the commune: “It means we take care of each other. It means everything for everyone. It means we communized the shit out of this place. It means we took something that was property and made it life,” she explains (2022, p. 30). Although focused on the New York Commune, the city’s cosmopolitan character grants the narrative global scope. For example, one character describes participating in the successful struggle to liberate the Levant. Others describe the experience of refugees in a world of collapsing nation-states and still others explain how cyberpunk rave culture directly contributed to the revolutionary struggle. Some interviews focus on characters who have come of age in the era of the commune and their efforts to understand the brutalities of the old world and grapple with their consequences. The coherent multiplicity of narratives reflects the processes that gave rise to the era of the commune. Scenes of resistance described during interviews range from militant factory occupations, insurrections, collective organizing, struggles against the police state, to the sense of collective joy experienced in moments of victory will be readily recognizable to anyone who has been involved in contemporary radical projects.


The novel depicts its revolutionary insurrections as a proliferating process of interconnected struggles. O’Brien and Abdelhadi associate four qualities with the struggles that fed into the emergence of the commune. As they explain, “[t]his global, communist phase of insurrection is characterized by four closely related qualities: communization, abolition, the assembly, and the commune” (2022, p. 12). I read these not merely as elements of a conceptual system but as categories with historicity and materiality. Through the novel metafictional temporality these categories are nexuses of past, present, and possible future. In their interrelation these four categories encompass what philosopher Roy Bhaskar characterizes as the four planes of social being, the embodied personality, interpersonal relations, instituted social structures, and material transactions with nature (2016, p. 53).

Abolition, for instance, evokes the anti-slavery struggles of previous centuries as well as contemporary police and prison Abolitionists. Broadly abolition connotes a totalizing negation of constraints on freedom. For O’Brien and Abdelhadi’s insurrectionaries this entrained, among other negations, ending “wage dependency” with the abolition of private property (2022, p. 9). This involved not only the emancipation of economic production, narrowly conceived, but the transformation of social reproduction. The abolition of the cisheteropatriarchal family is central to the authors’ vision of a liberated future. “To abolish the family meant to enable people to love, to live, to parent, to care in the rich variety of ways humans are capable of,” they explain. Family abolition should not, of course, be equated with the negation of intimate relations of care, but precisely the opposite as the lines above suggest. Abolition of the patriarchal family is hardly an idea that belongs to the future. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries everyone from Frederick Engels (1884) to Emma Goldman (1914) advocated a radical transformation of the family-form. Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai (1927) used “red love” to denote transformed relations of kinship. The programme of the Unione Anarchica Italiana, written by Errico Malatesta (1920), advocated an ideal of a “[r]econstruction of the family, as will emerge from the practice of love, freed from every legal tie, from every economic and physical oppression, from every religious prejudice.” Though, family abolition fell by the wayside through the latter twentieth century, it seems at least poised for a comeback (Weeks 2021; Shevek 2022; Lewis 2022). O’Brien further contributes to this resurgence of the “communization of care” in her recent non-fiction work (2023). The abolition of the family is the creation of new forms of kinship, liberated relations of intimacy and care.

Communization names unmediated processes of transformation through insurrectionary struggles. These struggles encompassed not only riotous mass revolt but the direct appropriation of productive forces in the form of “production councils.” O’Brien and Abdelhadi explain that “[t]he leap to communist relations was a direct insurrectionary act; it occurred without a mediating ‘transition period’” (2022, p. 13). This protean dynamism is reminiscent of Marx and Engels’ early formulation of communism, not as state or even political party but as “…the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (1978 [1846], p. 162). This formulation was likely close at hand when the concept of communization developed in the milieu of the post-1968 European ultra-left. As befitting a concept stemming from the collective praxis of social movements, its precise origin is murky, but Dominique Blanc is usually credited with its first use in print. And, as Blanc, declares, “[i]nsurrection and communization are intimately linked. There will not be, first the insurrection, and then—made possible by the insurrection—the transformation of social reality. The insurrectionary process draws its power from communization itself” (1975-76).

The concept of communization developed as a synthesis of existing radical political tendencies. Gilles Dauvé (2019) explains that communization emerged from a tripartite confluence of insights from the German-Dutch left, Italy’s Autonomia, and France’s Situationist International. Each providing communization with its form, content, and process, respectively. Its form, in Dauvé analysis, derives from the council democracy movement (e.g., Pannekoek 2003 [1950]). Content refers to the recognition of new agents, new subjectivities, in struggles not narrowly conceived as those of the industrial proletariat. The proliferation of struggles in Italy from the late 1960s through the 1970s led militant-intellectuals to conceptualize the social factory—the extension of capital’s subsumptive logic beyond the factory to society at large—and the emergence of new social subjects in struggle, women, youth, ethnic minorities, and so on (e.g., Tronti 2019 [1966]; Federici 2012). Dauvé sees this extension beyond the industrial proletariat as granting communization its “human title” in the figure of the “social individual,” a dynamic unity of the individual in community. Communization’s process was suggested by the Situationist International’s emphasis on the necessity of an unmitigated revolutionary transformation of everyday life (e.g. (2019, pp. 22-23). Though relatively obscure communization has gained renewed interest in the twenty-first century (e.g., The Invisible Committee, 2009; Endnotes 2010). In Everything for Everyone the category of assembly refers to communization’s form.

Assembly has become emblematic of the uprisings that have characterized the years since the Arab Spring, Europe’s Movement of the Squares, and Occupy Wall Street announced our current era of agitation. The intensity of struggle has ebbed and flowed across the dozen years since the spectacular concatenation of 2011, but the trajectory seems clear. From France’s Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) (2018-20) to Hong Kong’s uprising in 2019-20, to the Estallido Social (Social Explosion) that rocked Chile in 2020-21 the politics of assembly has repeatedly asserted itself. Joshua Clover in his 2019 end-of-year retrospective acknowledged challenge of reciting all the year’s social eruption. Clover’s (2020) partial list includes, “Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada by which we mean the Wet’suwet’en Nation, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Guyana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India by which we also mean Kashmir, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malta, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain or do we mean Catalonia, Sudan, Uruguay…”. Even the pages of the New Yorker—bastion of the liberal establishment that it is—recognized “protest in every corner of the globe” to be the story of the year (Wright, 2019).

Of course, not every social conflict has centred the politics of assembly, but the general tendency seems clear. Take Sudan, as a case in point. In 2019 popular democracy asserted itself against dictatorship. Though the dictator was driven from the country, an opportunistic counterrevolutionary military junta quickly installed itself. However, networks of neighbourhood level Resistance Committees, along with associations of professional workers, formed the primary organized vehicles of popular counterpower against the junta (Abbas and Akram-Boshar, 2022; Eltahir, 2022; Anon, 2023; Bishai, 2023). The Resistance Committees are generally composed of unemployed urban youth calling for a radically democratic revolution. They have demonstrated a remarkable degree of organizational perseverance in the face of incredible challenges. Even as the country has descended into a catastrophic power struggle between military factions, the Resistance Committees work to maintain the supply and distribution of food and necessary goods. Where the state and NGOs have faltered Resistance Committees have mobilized.

As Marc Español (2023) reports, “[b]ut amid this general paralysis, more informal neighborhood networks have mobilized and are attempting to fill the void, organizing the distribution of basic goods, coordinating medical care, planning evacuations and building a movement to oppose the war.” This quote could have easily been lifted from O’Brien and Abdelhadi future history of the New York Commune. As they write, “The assembly provided the main form of decision making in these new insurrections. Assemblies initially referred to nightly or weekly gatherings on street corners during riots and other urban uprisings” (2022, p. 14). They go on to describe how assemblies became more formal and extend into production councils, eventually coalescing into the organizational seed of the commune. Whether Sudan’s Resistance Committees can salvage the revolution remains to be seen but their existence and endurance under brutal condition is an inspiring testament to the power of revolutionary hope.

The commune represents a theory and practice of human flourishing in nature, an orienting political vision and commitment. Of the New York Commune, O’Brien and Abdelhadi write, “The commune also characterizes new forms of collective action, new subjectivities of interdependence, and the concurrence of dependence and freedom possible within this new social form” (2022, p. 15). I characterize this as a matrix of emancipation, drawing together and instituting logics of abolition, communization, and assembly. The commune has been a beacon to the radical imaginary and where it has taken flesh and blood form, like the Paris Commune of 1871, it has stood, however briefly and imperfectly, as a material conduit to a world beyond state and capital. During the revolution within the Spanish Civil War communes proliferated across the cities and regions of Madrid, Barcelona, Catalonia, Aragon, and Andalusia, with agricultural and industrial production brought under the banner of the commune (Mintz, 2013; Leval, 2018). The hope of the commune was not exclusive to Europe. The Morelos Commune, for example, took form during the Mexican Revolution. The peasant-indigenous soldiers of the Liberation Army of the South led by Emiliano Zapata carved out a political space where they could realize their hope for “Tierra y Libertad” (Gilly 2005; Bosteels 2013). Though eventually dismantled by counterrevolutionary machinations, the legacy of the Morelos Commune has been carried forward in recent decades by the (neo) Zapatistas (Marcos, 2002 [2020]). Since launching their rebellion in 1994, the (neo) Zapatistas have become a global symbol of resistance to neoliberal capitalism. In their territories in Chiapas, they have established local autonomous institutions of self-rule. Similarly, in the Middle East, Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups have in recent years collaborated in a project of democratic confederalism, a form of bottom-up democracy whose structural based unit is the commune (Ocalan, 2011; Dirik, 2018). To repeat my suggestion at the start of this section, the categories of abolition, assembly, communization, and commune should not be seen understood as merely elements of an ideological system but rather as connoting real material and historical possibilities.


How to understand all of this in a general and more fundamental framework? How to tie together these elements of utopian fiction, radical history, theory, and practice, in a meaningful conceptual bundle? We want a reading that can illuminate our understanding of Everything for Everyone and, through this reading, explore the utopian imaginary and the historicity and materiality of hope. Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of hope is indispensable for this task. Hope and utopia do a great deal of work in Bloch’s philosophical system, possessing multiple related meanings, or emphasises. For Bloch, utopia is hope’s ultimate telos, the end to which hope yearns. Hope is not only a subjective disposition; it is rather an objective feature of material reality. Hope spans both epistemology (what we know) and ontology (what is, being). Bloch’s is a dialectical philosophy which takes change, relation, and process as core premises. Being—reality—in Bloch’s account, is always restless, not static, or eternally fixed. His dialectical ontology, then, posits reality as a ceaseless process of transformation: being is becoming.

Any notion of becoming necessarily includes a moment of negation, abolition, determinative absence, the passing away of that which is and a moment of emergence, or the coming into being of the new. Bloch calls this the “Not-Yet,” an ontological stratum of “real possibility” undergirding actuality. “Real possibility thus does not reside in any ready-made ontology of the being of That-Which-Is up to now, but in the ontology, which must constantly be grounded anew, of the being of That-Which-Is-Not-Yet, which discovers future even in the past and in the whole of nature” (Bloch 1995, p. 237). In Bloch’s anthropology, this is manifest in the human ability to imagine the future, what he terms the “anticipatory consciousness”. Our desire and imagination exceed the present in anticipation of the future. All intentional action is future oriented, whether lifting a pen from a desk or building communism. Anticipatory consciousness is a basis for Bloch’s principle of hope. As Levy explains, “[i]t belongs to the very concept of utopia, not merely to predict new possibilities, but to discover those possibilities with which the present reality is pregnant… By nursing them, people change the reality in which they live. This is the ‘principle of hope’” (1997, pp. 181-182). Hope is, then, inherently critical, in Bloch’s account. In its desire for the Not-Yet against the What-Is, through its becoming, hope is an act of negativity, negation, critique. Hope abolishes and declares that “another world is possible.” Bloch, however, distinguishes between abstract and concrete utopia. The abstract utopia may yearn for adventures “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far way…,” and in this yearning implicitly critiques the banality of the present, but it lacks any suggestion of the possibility of overcoming it. In contrast, “…concrete utopian projections are concerned with the exploration of human possibilities, concrete utopia deals with possibilities which exist as tendencies latent within a given situation” (Kellner and O’Hara 1976, p. 29). In this sense, concrete utopian thought operations as a form of immanent critique, “…a form of critique that reconstructs norms from social reality that can then serve as a basis for demands that transcend the reality the critique is targeting” (Stahl 2022, p. 4).

O’Brien and Abdelhadi’s Everything for Everyone is not a prediction of an inevitable future; it is a showcase of real radical possibilities and concrete utopia. Through its metafictional engagement with socio-historical struggles and their projective utopian elaboration, the novel expresses what Bloch would recognize as “docta spes,” i.e., comprehended or educated hope (1995, p.7). That is, “…hope grasped and understood in a dialectical materialist manner, with a firm basis in real possibility” (Hudson, 1982, p. 106).

The materiality and historicity of the categories of abolition, communization, assembly, and commune, express educated hope. By evoking the socio-historical traces within these categories the novel itself enacts a Blochian act of recovery of possibilities, of futures in the past.

Of course, there are several interrelated modes of historicity at work in Everything for Everyone. The narrative framing device of oral history being the most salient. Writing in character as their oral historian future selves, O’Brien and Abdelhadi explain, “[o]ur choice of oral history was deliberate. Oral histories are an opportunity to explore the subject in history; the peculiar and contradictory nature of individual human experience as it occurs during moments of shared collective action. Oral histories are inherently contradictory, unresolved, open, and expansive” (2022, pp. 5-6). In this way, the authors set up a dynamic relationship between past, present, and future both in the fictional world of the New York Commune and in its metafictional relation to our present. Oral history strives on subjective and intersubjective memory. In this case, what is being remembered is the future, though this imagined future rearticulates elements of the real social-historical to inspire the present.

Recursively, in as much as Everything for Everyone can be read as a political intervention, it becomes part of the transformative praxis that its narrative is ultimately about. In this dialectic of memory (historical traces) and imagination (future oral history), this collision of past-present-future, we can apprehend a Blochian temporality whereby, “[t]he rigid divisions between future and past thus themselves collapse, unbecome future becomes visible in the past, avenged and inherited, mediated and fulfilled past in the future” (Bloch 1995, p. 9). This dialectical temporality suggests a teleological conception of history. It is fair to say that Bloch’s philosophy does assume a kind of teleology, but this does not necessarily imply a stance of historical predetermination, or a straight inevitable line from capitalist alienation to liberated utopia. Rather, we can see the utopian impulse as a tendency in human history, a tendency that has been repeatedly contradicted and which may never be realized in its full utopian flourishing. To even consider the notion of a “fulfilled past in the future” is necessarily always partial and selective.

Utopia comes with no guarantees, no absolute certainties. The present is always oversaturated with myriad concrete possibilities. At this point it is somewhat of an understatement to suggest there are at least as many dystopian options as there are utopian ones. How to assess the real concrete utopian possibilities in the past and present? Bloch’s massive and unrelenting empirical documentation of the presence of the utopian impulse across virtually every socio-cultural endeavour is unassailable. The philosophy of hope can orient us toward concrete possibilities, but it cannot provide us with readymade strategies or tactics to actualize them. Even selecting between them can only finally come down to political values.

Bloch’s own paradoxical biography suggests the limits of his philosophy. Bloch, like many Marxists, not all, saw the Soviet Union as representing real possibilities for human emancipation. Bloch, perhaps, maintained this hope longer than many of his Frankfurt School contemporaries. Fleeing Nazi Germany and taking refuge in the United States during the Second World War, Bloch returned to post-war East Germany for a university position. However, Bloch’s slow, too slow, movement from supporter of show trials to increasing public criticism of Stalinism saw him labelled a subversive persona non grata by the East German state. Under an official campaign of persecution again him and his family and with the Berlin Wall coming up, Bloch absconded to West Germany. Though disabused of his faith in the Soviet system, Bloch never abandoned his humanistic Marxism but he certainly wrestled with the personal and philosophical implications of disappointment. Indeed, as Davidson argues “…Bloch’s philosophy of hope cannot be fully understood without an account of disappointment. Hope contains a moment of disappointment, such that to claim that, ontologically speaking, the world is hope is also to claim that the world is disappointment” (2021, p. 423).

It is precisely this dialectic of hope and disappointment that forecloses certainties, but this need not foreclose a real movement toward emancipation. As Wayne Hudson suggests, “[t]o this extent, Bloch’s optimism could become emancipatory if it were interpreted to mean that hope is not defeated when it confronts its failures but finds in them the ‘educated hope’ which must finally be defined as success” (1982, p. 218). But how, after the disappointments of the twentieth century, to define success? Everything for Everyone offers a particular vision of success but where to locate it in more general coordinates of utopia? In the final section I turn to a late career essay by Ursula K. Le Guin to help situate O’Brien and Abdelhadi’s novel and suggest why it represents an important intervention in the utopian imaginary.


Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant essay Utopiyin, Utopiyang (2015) illuminates a relatively under explored domain the utopian imaginary, a conceptual domain in which I situate Everything for Everyone. Coming as it does near the end of her life, this essay can be read as something of a culmination and synthesis of two great themes that preoccupied her throughout her writing career: utopia and Taoist philosophy. Le Guin’s novels The Dispossessed (2001 [1974]), Always Coming Home (2016 [1985]), The Telling (2000) and other works show the ambiguities and complexities of utopia. Where her utopianism is fairly explicit, her sense of the Tao, the way, is more often a gentle but persistent current running through, infusing, informing, and shaping, her writerly craft. Taoism is inextricable from her thought. Philosophical Taoism exposits a sophisticated form of dialectical ontology with its emphasis on determinative absence, process, relation, negation. To recognize similarity is not to deny distinction; though these are often matters of emphasis such as, for instance, the relative importance of contradiction versus complementarity in Western and Eastern dialectics, respectively (Rošker, 2021, p. 33). It can also be seen to express a certain utopian impulse with its suggestion of the natural orderliness of freedom.

It is precisely Le Guin’s own recognition of the utopian impulse of Taoist philosophy that facilitates her critical reading of literary utopias. Le Guin observes that the yin/yang symbol, with its dynamic of cyclic forces, each containing an element of the other, represents a relational process. Rejecting traditional patriarchal assumptions about the superiority of yang, Le Guin emphasizes the interdependence and intermutability of each side. She explains that “[y]ang is male, bright, dry, hard, active, penetrating. Yin is female, dark, wet, easy, receptive, containing. Yang is control, Yin acceptance. They are great and equal powers; neither can exist alone, and each is always in process of becoming the other.” Le Guin transposes this dialectic to her critical reading of utopian/dystopian literature. She observes that most utopias and dystopias are zones of maximum control counterposed by a surrounding wilderness. “In this I see examples of the intermutability of the yang and yin: the dark mysterious wilderness surrounding a bright, safe place, the Bad Places — which then become the Good Place, the bright, open future surrounding a dark, closed prison . . . Or vice versa,” she explains. Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World are notable, Le Guin argues, for their extreme emphasis on control and denial of the possibility of transformation. “Everything is yang forever,” as Le Guin puts it.

In a rather schematic fashion, I follow the discussion of Le Guin to generate a four-fold typology of utopia/dystopia. Imagine a classic Punnett square with its division into four quarters. In the upper left: the yang-utopia, think Huxley; the upper right: the yang-dystopia, think Orwell; the lower right: yin-dystopia, think Mad Max, the Walking Dead, and the like. The lower left: yin-utopia. Le Guin suggests her novel Always Coming Home as her attempt to write a yin-utopia, but she wonders, “[i]s a yin utopia a contradiction in terms, since all the familiar utopias rely on control to make them work, and yin does not control? Yet it is a great power. How does it work?” (n.p.).

She offers no specific answer but suggests that recent moves toward more ecological modes of thought and away from rapacious paradigms of domination and endless growth may herald the ascent of a yin oriented utopian imaginary. “…[A] shift from yang to yin, and so… acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth,” as Le Guin powerfully concludes (n.p.). No doubt, her intuition of this shift is prescient and I argue that O’Brien and Abdelhadi’s Everything for Everyone stands out as a significant example of such a utopian shift. However, I want to go a bit further and highlight key aspects of yin-utopian mode that Le Guin alludes to but does not elaborate.

If the two upper quadrants of the utopian/dystopian square are defined by their shared reliance on control, then I see freedom as the defining feature of the lower two quadrants. Rather, pseudo-freedom might be a better characterization of the apocalyptic yin-dystopias associated with the lower right quadrant. Problematically this pseudo-freedom is too often mistaken for not only real freedom but the only form of freedom. It is premised on the alienation of rugged individualism fostered by the structural relations of capital and neoliberal state. Indeed, this pseudo-freedom serves as an affirmative ideological inversion of the experience of alienation. Alienation’s existential, psychological, interpersonal, and socio-political estrangements are ideologically transformed into virtues. The obsessive masculinist fantasy of the “alpha male” is an all too prevalent contemporary expression of this notion of pseudo-freedom. In this individualized sense, freedom is indistinguishable from a form of zealous acquisitiveness, which necessarily leads to the domination of the many by a few in the form of political-economic monopoly, i.e., state and capital. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is, of course, a replay of Hobbes’s vision of humanity’s state of nature with its supposed “war of all against all” with Leviathan, the state, as its necessary corollary. The Walking Dead is Hobbes with zombies. Alienated pseudo-freedom is false precisely because it denies and occludes the very sociality on which its existence depends.

The yin-utopias, on the other hand, are premised on freedom in and through human sociality rather than the denial of our inescapable mutual dependencies. In Everything for Everyone, for instance, O’Brien and Abdelhadi write that, “[t]he commune also characterizes new forms of collective action, new subjectivities of interdependence, and the concurrence of dependence and freedom possible within this new social form” (2022, p. 15). Acknowledging our existence as dependent beings means that any realistic notion of freedom must be enunciated in relational terms, as freedom-with-and-through-others rather than freedom-against-others. Freedom and solidarity are interdependent. As David Graeber observes, “In the absence of the market, it would be impossible to conceive of “freedom” as a series of choices made in isolation; instead, freedom can only mean the freedom to choose what kind of commitments one wishes to make to others, and, of course, the experience of living under only those constraints one has freely chosen” (2011, p. 61). Along with solidarity this conception of freedom also implies a requirement for equity. This, of course, is not something wholly new but rather a return to communism as a vision of human flourishing, unmediated by the alienated structures of capital and state. With its emphasis on meta-historicity and concrete utopianism we can see Everything for Everyone read as an immanent critique of the failures of state socialism and, at the same time, a recovery and elaboration of latent communist possibilities. As my discussion of the concrete historical examples of abolition, communization, assembly, and commune show, the tendencies, the impulse, toward free communism have always been present but repressed both by capitalist and authoritarian socialist regimes alike.

In Weight, her masterful retelling of the myth of Atlas and Hercules, Jeannette Winterson explains that she “wants to tell the story again,” and marks this as her novel’s “recurring language motif” (2006, p. xviii). As a metafictional oral history of a communist utopian future, Everything for Everyone suggests a similar desire to tell the story again. Here the return is to a vision of communism as a community of freely associated individuals. Obviously, retelling is not unaltered repetition but rather creative elaboration, a preservative but radical transformation, a supersession of past elements toward an indeterminate but possible future. Nor should this be read as a form of communist nostalgia. Indeed, O’Brien and Abdelhadi seem to reject a nostalgic reading of the text. In the novel’s final few lines an interview participant, Alkasi Sanchez, who happens to be a historian, is asked by O’Brien to speculate on the future of the commune. Sanchez suggests a need, “…to be seriously facing all the rapid and exciting changes humans are going through. There are huge tasks that will require a vast amount of human ingenuity, creativity, and effort.” Sanchez continues by pointing to challenges and opportunities, “[l]ike rebuilding ecological systems, restoring biodiversity, reversing climate change. Or, life in orbit and exploration of the solar system is really just starting. Earlier, I mentioned the proliferation of post-human body modifications.” Finally, Sanchez observes that, [w]e can finally start really thinking creatively about who we are in this universe, who we wish to become. Nostalgia is a toxin for that expansive visioning that needs to happen. We need to be done with nostalgia” (2022, pp. 238-239).

Despite its reappropriation of utopian communism, Everything for Everyone should not be conflated with the contemporary genre trend of retrofuturism, with its nostalgic longing for (abstract utopian) futures that never were. Rather, with Bloch, it is an exercise in “dreaming forward” (1995, p. 10). And, as Sanchez’s final words suggest, communism is not the end but the beginning of true human history (Sève 1999). Or, in Marx’s words, “[t]he prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this [capitalist] social formation” (1977 [1859], para. 8). Given the present state of things, this omnicidal crisis system, with any future seemingly foreclosed by capitalist realism, O’Brien and Abdelhadi have written an inspiring intervention, an exciting paean to hope and a free and open future. To slightly paraphrase Raymond Williams, to be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing (1989, p. 209). In this task Everything for Everyone succeeds spectacularly.


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