Two dystopic visions on the relationship of humans and progress: Emile Souvestre and Cordwainer Smith

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Abstract

Zaha Hadid’s statement that is used as an epigraph to this book is also the cornerstone of this essay: “Non puo esserci progresso senza affrontare l’ignoto”. This sentence has an ambiguous meaning and can be interpreted in at least two different ways: either as a natural challenge or as an aggressive defiance. This ambiguity encompasses the relationship between individuals, communities and progress, reminding the image of Janus, each facing a different side, both forming the same and a different entity. It is a natural and complementary ambivalence. Every endeavour undertook by promoters of progress has a degree of uncertainty, a pending threat of failure, and the outcome always produces positive and negative consequences frequently in uneven ways.
Culturally, in a consistent way at least from the beginning of modernity, Western civilisation has regarded progress as a natural unstoppable endeavour. Sometimes even as a duty of every rational educated person – to pass (or trespass) the frontier of the known, to act, to evolve, to transform, to change, and to discover the “God given world”. This almost linear way to understand progress, to view reality from a dominant, sometimes exclusive point of view, tends to erase the notion and effects of negative consequences both on individuals and on communities, assumed by the dominant culture as acceptable collateral damages in the name/notion of rational evolution.
In this essay, the main goal is to defy this dominant trend of evolution as based mainly on material, objective, rational progress, and defy the unique view of a future based on quantifiable and technological evolution. This challenge will be done with the comparative analysis of two literary texts: Emile Souvestre’s Le monde tel qu'il sera and Cordwainer Smith’s “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProgress(es) – Theories and Practices
EditorsKong Mário, Monteiro Maria do Rosário, Neto Maria João Pereira
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherCRC Press
Pages353–359
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-351-24268-4
ISBN (Print)978-0-8153-7415-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event3rd International Multidisciplinary Congress on Proportion Harmonies Identities (), October 4-7, 2017, Bari, Italy - Swabian Castle; Sala Murat; University of Trento, Bari, Italy
Duration: 4 Nov 20177 Nov 2017
Conference number: 3

Conference

Conference3rd International Multidisciplinary Congress on Proportion Harmonies Identities (), October 4-7, 2017, Bari, Italy
Abbreviated titlePHI 2017
CountryItaly
CityBari
Period4/11/177/11/17

Keywords

  • Utopia
  • PROGRESS
  • Emile Souvestre
  • Cordwainer Smith
  • Alpha Ralpha Boulevard
  • Le Monde Tel qu'il será
  • Dystopia

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