EGMT 1530: Visions of the Future - Where's the Difference? Where's the Good?

Instructor: 
What role should difference play in society? How should relations among men and women, rich and poor, citizen and alien be organized for the benefit of all? What kind of political system would guarantee peace, prosperity and plenty for all people? In what kind of society would “different” individuals find fulfillment? Should a society privilege concern for the collective or for the individual? How does difference function in a good society? Visions of the future make claims about precisely these kinds of questions. They also tell us something about the present. Whether the visions are of radically better (utopic) or worse (dystopic) worlds, we catch a glimpse of what the constructors of such visions are unsatisfied with about the way the world is now and their desires and hopes of what could be. Significantly, as the above questions highlight, many of these visions of the future have a lot to say about what kind of good difference is and what it means to live well together amidst our differences, and in doing so offer some powerful commentary on the ways we do and do not understand and attend to difference here in our present time and place.   How does vicarously experiencing these visions of radically better or worse imaginary worlds as they’re presented in film, literature, and social experiments, then, shape our perceptions of the past, present, and future—of what is and what could be? How do different visions of the future shape our perspectives around difference, and how might closely examining these visions help us better understand, reflect upon, and grapple with ethical and social frameworks and questions around our differences? In this course, we will examine and judge the answers provided by a range of utopic and dystopic visions of the future. In doing so, we will explore the complexities of ethical and political reflection on difference and the pursuit of the good amidst that difference—what kind of society do we want to create? What kind of life do we want for ourselves? How do we get there? Can we get there? Why haven’t we gotten there yet? In exploring, evaluating, and engaging with visions of the future as a lens of and for difference, we will explore the richness and complexity of the variability of human experience, reflect on the social inequities produced and patterned across lines of difference, and critically and constructively explore what it might mean to engage difference ethically in the present in light of the past and the potential futures in front of us.