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Collective Dreams

Political Imagination and Community

Keally D. McBride

Publication Year: 2006

How do we go about imagining different and better worlds for ourselves? Collective Dreams looks at ideals of community, frequently embraced as the basis for reform across the political spectrum, as the predominant form of political imagination in America today. Examining how these ideals circulate without having much real impact on social change provides an opportunity to explore the difficulties of practicing critical theory in a capitalist society. Different chapters investigate how ideals of community intersect with conceptions of self and identity, family, the public sphere and civil society, and the state, situating community at the core of the most contested political and social arenas of our time. Ideals of community also influence how we evaluate, choose, and build the spaces in which we live, as the author’s investigations of Celebration, Florida, and of West Philadelphia show. Following in the tradition of Walter Benjamin, Keally McBride reveals how consumer culture affects our collective experience of community as well as our ability to imagine alternative political and social orders. Taking ideals of community as a case study, Collective Dreams also explores the structure and function of political imagination to answer the following questions: What do these oppositional ideals reveal about our current political and social experiences? How is the way we imagine alternative communities nonetheless influenced by capitalism, liberalism, and individualism? How can these ideals of community be used more effectively to create social change?

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

There were multitudes who provided advice and encouragement at key points in the genesis of this book. First and foremost, John Zarobell read and talked about every draft. He would get up so I could sleep and he never stopped thinking the project mattered. ...

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pp. 1-8

This is a book about imagining a better world. While I was growing up, I moved every year. I was a spectator of the world around me, but everyone else looked as though he or she were a participant. I assumed that if only I was one of them, I would feel at home, I would belong. ...

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1 The Politics of Imagining Communities

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pp. 9-22

The term “community” has a paradoxical presence in our everyday discourse. While many people lament not being part of a “real community,” they nonetheless use the word repeatedly to refer to groups. The problem became clearer to me after reading Hervé Varenne’s study of Appleton, Wisconsin, ...

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2 A Room Full of Mirrors: Community and the Promise of Identity

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pp. 23-42

Classical liberalism took individual identity as a given: first there were individuals, then these individuals formed society. There have been critics of this claim for as long as it has been made. For example, Rousseau described how the individual fundamentally changes with the establishment of society. ...

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3 Habits of the Hearth: Families and Politics in Theory and Practice

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pp. 43-58

In “The Difficulty of Imagining Others” Elaine Scarry (1999) builds upon the supposition that we simply cannot imagine others in a way that provides for morality, equality, and respect. To rectify this problem, she suggests that we employ institutions to aid our failed imaginations. ...

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4 Citizens Without States? Bringing Community into Institutions

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pp. 59-84

The state has always been viewed with a certain amount of distrust in the United States. Even with its tentacles firmly bound by separation of powers, popular election, federalism, and bureaucratic process, it is a commonplace belief that the state is an interfering evil only slightly less dangerous than the alternative—anarchy. ...

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5 Consuming Community

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pp. 85-110

Dorothy Smith has written about the interchange between text and “reality” or, rather, that which is “outside-the-text” (1999). She is critical of poststructuralist theory, claiming that it has no referent outside of itself. Without the dynamic relationship between theory and the world, theory becomes meaningless, ...

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6 Utopian Vision as Commodity Fetish: Social Imagineering in Postmodern Capitalism

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pp. 111-120

The tradition established by T

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7 Community in Practice

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pp. 121-140

How is a community built? What are the ingredients that seem to make it work? While much of the discussion thus far has been about how we imagine communities, it is important to conclude with some observations about how imagination becomes manifest in building and living in communities as well. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 141-150


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pp. 151-154

E-ISBN-13: 9780271052878
E-ISBN-10: 0271052872
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271026893
Print-ISBN-10: 0271026898

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2006