This essay outlines the conceptual work done by the category and figure of war in the writings of Fredric Jameson, from his earliest work, Sartre: The Origins of a Style (1961), to the recent Valences of the Dialectic (2009). At first glance Jameson’s work does not feature a firmly articulated position on war, nor do his writings, with salient exceptions, take up war as a theme or topic with any consistency or thoroughness. Nevertheless, Jameson’s writings not only display repeated recourse to the notion of war but also, at a deeper level, conduct an enduring conversation between war and systemic, or anti-capitalist, critique. I call this persistent conceptual thread the dialectic of war and Utopia. Through this dialectic Jameson uses the category of war to present a particular portrait of the capitalist system—one that foregrounds the structural imperative of competitive and agonistic social relations—and, in turn, to delineate the contours of Utopia as a concept. At stake in this reading is thus, in part, a theoretical reconstruction of the category of Utopia across a wide range of Jameson’s thought. Given the centrality of Utopia for Jameson, this has bearing on his so-called allegorical mode of interpretation, on his generic studies of science fiction, and on Utopia as a foundational notion underpinning Jameson’s political imaginary. The essay closes by speculating about how Jameson’s work might suggest possibilities for an anti-war politics in the contemporary moment.
Carter, Stephen D.
"The Dialectic of War and Utopia: Systemic Closure and Embattled Social Life In The Work of Fredric Jameson,"
Criticism: Vol. 58
, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol58/iss2/2