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Inventions of NemesisUtopia, Indignation, and Justice$
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Douglas Mao

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691199252

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691199252.001.0001

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Workers in Motion

Workers in Motion

(p.142) 3 Workers in Motion
Inventions of Nemesis

Douglas Mao

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces how the where of work and workers appears as a problem and a value in utopian writing, arguing that we misunderstand the justice utopia strives for if we think of it as a right allocation only of benefits resulting from (or emerging apart from) labor rather than, also, of benefits that can inhere in labor. It remarks a key change in utopian imagining in the years since the middle of the twentieth century: the abandoning, as a major constituent of utopian aspiration, of the dream of people working where and how they like. One can posit many reasons for this shift, including a general drift away from vocabularies of social amelioration that center on the worker, but the chapter concentrates on two significant developments. The first is an increasing concern with freedom to live as one chooses — that is, with liberty of lifestyle — that in the ambit of utopian writing seems increasingly to subsume specifically work-related prerogatives under a larger figure of mobility and whose arrival front and center in utopian thinking is registered by Robert Nozick's metautopia, or what Frederic Jameson has dubbed “the utopian archipelago.” The second is the ever increasing visibility of labor-driven migration as a fraught feature of life in the contemporary world.

Keywords:   workers, utopian writing, labor, utopian imagining, utopian aspiration, social amelioration, lifestyle, metautopia, utopian archipelago, labor-driven migration

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