Japhy Wilson: ‘The distance between two dreams’

Abstract: What does it mean to wake up? This is the question posed by Mladen Dolar, in a manuscript entitled The Riskiest Moment, which has yet to be completed. Drawing on the work of Kafka, Proust, and Freud, Dolar identifies the moment between sleep and waking life as a space between two dreams, which is both filled with creative possibilities and prey to ideological seductions. In this paper, I transpose Dolar’s question from the realm of art and philosophy to the register of the political. The space identified by Dolar is reinterpreted as a place of Real utopias, which fleetingly emerge through the shattering of symbolic orders, and swiftly disappear beneath the ‘wake-up calls’ of new utopian fantasies. Yet, as Dolar notes, the ‘ontological opening’ revealed in such moments ‘introduces a rift that displaces all such wake-up calls’.

Furthermore, in its determination to preserve our sleep against such elements, the dream machine of ideological state apparatuses can produce a Real so intense that it shatters the very fantasy that it was seeking to sustain, returning us to the uncanny moment of a real awakening. This utopian dialectic is explored through the case of the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador, which combined a call to awaken from the ‘long dark night’ of neoliberalism, with a promise of a post-neoliberal world in which ‘dreams are converted into reality’. This curious mix of metaphors betrays an attempt to close the gap between the Real that announced itself in the neoliberal nightmare, and the waking life of a post-neoliberal fantasy fuelled by the magic of petrodollars. This vanishing space contained the ineradicable presence of a Real utopia.

BioJaphy Wilson is a Lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of Manchester, and is Research Coordinator at the National Strategic Centre for the Right to Territory (CENEDET) in Quito, Ecuador. His research explores the intertwining of space, power and ideology in the politics of international development. He has published in academic journals in the fields of political economy, human geography, and development studies (see related to theme of the workshop: Black hole Capitalism). He is the author of Jeffrey Sachs: The Strange Case of Dr. Shock and Mr. Aid (Verso 2014).