Wednesday, February 17, 2021

On Living-Together: the Gift of Space, Pathos, Eros, Sophia, Tenderness and Tact.

 "The thirteenth lecture won't be taking place... for contingent reasons, I didn't have time to collect your contributions; when it came to cheerfully constructing a happy utopia, I found I lacked the necessary enthusiasm... [and] for a theoretical reason... from Plato to Fourier, all written utopias have been social: an attempt to fix upon the ideal organization of power. Personally... I've often felt the desire to write a domestic utopia: an ideal (happy) manner of figuring, of anticipating... search for... the Sovereign Good as concerns living space."

"...even in what appear to be the most gregarious species, there's always an attempt to regulate inter-individual distance: it's the critical distance. This would probably be the most significant problem of Living-Together: how to identify and regulate that critical distance, on either side of which a crisis occurs. (However [remember...] the aim of criticism is to provoke a crisis). A problem that's all the more acute today... what's most precious, our ultimate possession is space.  In houses, apartments, trains, planes, lectures, seminars, the luxury is to have space around you, in other words, to be surrounded by 'a few people,' but not too many... The gift of space... The utopian tension... stems from this: what is desired is a distance that won't destroy affect ('pathos of distance' [Nietzsche's] excellent expression)... a grand clear vision ['waking vision'] of utopia, a distance permeated, irrigated by tender feeling: a pathos ['affective' Imaginary'] that would allow for something of Eros and Sophia (grand clear dream). ... Here we'd [also] rediscover... Tact[ful] distance and respect, a relation that's in no way oppressive but at the same time where there's a real warmth of feeling."

— Roland Barthes, "Utopia" (seminar notes, May 4, 1977) in How to Live Together (Columbia University Press, 2012) p130-132.