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Talking to philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists

The year 2020 and the utopia IV

From a certain point of view, the political divides into two areas: here the individual, there the collective. They correspond to the tendency to wanted inequality in contrast to the wanted equality of people and roughly stand for the political label of “right” and “left”. In this regard, the utopian designs to be found are more committed to the collective, which is not surprising if one reads them as a criticism of the contemporary society in which they were created. So the question of a utopia of living is often answered with collective solutions. Our present in 2020 is diametrically opposed to this: single living is the trend of the time.

Part I: What has remained of the future of the past
Part II: Sex and Utopia
Part III: Eating as the New Religion

For the early socialist Charles Fourier (1808), architecture and urban planning play a central role, since the built environment was assigned a pedagogical and symbolic function. The conception, the assignment and assignment of the buildings stood as a material substrate for the ideas of collective living and working. Fourier found the medieval towns of his time with their winding streets and unsanitary conditions to be “chaos”. He favored the large residential complex – called the Phalanstère – which, with its central middle section and two symmetrical wing annexes, is based on models of feudalism – for example the Palace of Versailles. Fourier imagined the Phalanstère with apartments for around 1,600 people, with meeting rooms, courtyards, halls and cabinets as “a small town”, which were connected by covered colonnades and galleries.

In the alternative movement of the 1968s, living meant above all life far from the social housing of the welfare state. Instead of the standardized room sizes and specified function, the alternatives preferred the empty old apartments in the inner cities and founded municipalities or rented farms in the countryside. The focus was on living together and sharing space. A special form of living is living in occupied houses, the “house fights” in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin old building quarters are part of everyday political life in the 1970s. Living in a collective is also an expression of a political self-image that the couple relationship and the small family want to overcome.

Annares is also a planet of collective spaces. It comes from the utopian novel “Planet of the Have-Nots” from 1974 by the American writer Ursula Le Guin. Living on this “planet of the have-nots” corresponds to the structures of this society in terms of ownership, relationship between the sexes and marriage: It is organized collectively in rooms that are available to everyone and differ functionally according to the number of residents. Shevek, the main character of the novel, has been used to sleeping in dormitories with four to ten beds since childhood. As a child, sleeping alone in a room meant being unbearable to others, isolation as a sign of shame.

For adults, the use of a single room is synonymous with sexuality: you go there for a night or longer with your partner for sexual intercourse; if you live in a couple as a couple, you use a double room. Since the children grow up in their own children’s homes, there are no family rooms. Beyond sexual contact, there is no reason not to sleep in one of the dormitories, privacy has no function, is “waste”. Every place on Anarres has such public dwellings or dormitories, there is no place within the economic structures for the construction of private houses and apartments and their maintenance, heating and power supply. But if you want, you are free to build your own house. There are a number of such loners on the edge of the old settlements.

In Ökotopia, the land of shared apartments in the novel of the same name by Ernest Callenbach (1975), the big cities like San Francisco have changed fundamentally, there is a rural atmosphere. Instead of cars, pedestrians, cyclists and buses dominate the cityscape. The streets are full of trees and flowers, with small streams flowing in between. The inhabitants populate the city center and live in the high-rise buildings that were formerly used as office buildings.

The monotonous suburbs with the “cheap row houses”, however, were demolished. This fate is also waiting for the smaller cities, only a few quarters are to be preserved as an open-air museum. One of the new small towns is “Alviso” at the end of San Franciso Bay. Its focus is a factory that produces small electric vans. Around it are restaurants and small shops as well as the residential buildings. These are three to four stories high and enclose an inner courtyard, the building material is almost exclusively wood. The apartments are large to accommodate the new “families”, the shared apartments, and have ten to 15 rooms.

2020: If you look at the current development of living, there is no widespread trend towards collective living, but on the contrary. In large German cities, more and more people live alone in an apartment. In Munich, for example, these one-person households made up more than half of all private households at the end of 2015: 54.8 percent. About every third Munich resident lives alone in his apartment. And with this high proportion of one-person households, Munich is in the German trend, because in 2015 41.5 percent of all households in Germany were made up of one person. The Federal Statistical Office assumes that the proportion of these one-person households will continue to increase.

Follows: The year 2020 and the Utopia V – Working

The article series is based on the latest book by Rudolf Stumberger: Utopia in concrete terms – and what has become of it. Alibri-Verlag 2019. In it, the ideas about the future since Thomas Morus’ “Utopia” from 1516 are examined for concrete statements on areas of life such as sexuality or living and compared with today’s reality.

(Rudolf Stumberger)

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