l’imagination prend le pouvoir


Fascinating report in Psychology Today about research that found affinities between dreaming and political orientation. The report notes that,

Those who identify as politically liberal tend to recall their dreams more frequently than those who identify as conservative. Additionally, conservatives tend to report more mundane dream content, whereas liberals have more bizarre dreams.

The report goes on to state that

These findings seem to suggest that liberals may differ from conservatives not only in their social values, but may be more imaginative than conservatives.

Although the report doesn’t clarify whether being liberal causes people to be more open to experience and dream more, or vice versa (dreamers become liberals), it got me thinking about the relation between our capacity to dream and our willingness to engage in transformative social action, something that has long occupied the Left. Walter Benjamin, for instance, describes modern life as the inhabiting of a capitalist dreamworld, the world of the “ever new”, where affect-driven, always-in-the-now experience is evoked and then invested in the continuous consumption of commodities. To dream, in this context, effectively insulates us from realities undergirded by exploitative labour relations, the destruction of nature, and so forth.

Yet for Benjamin, paradoxically, what allows us to break free from this slumber-like state is our capacity to dream alternative realities. In a world characterized by the accelerated channeling of creative energies into the valorization of commodities, only a change of pace can yield new thought patterns. That’s why the flâneur, walking the streets of Paris in a leisurely manner, ostensibly outside the rustle and bustle of capitalist production, was so important to Benjamin, as was boredom –”the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away”. For Benjamin dreams describe both a state of being, and the means to break out of it.

5_abandoned mall
(a dialectical image? with thanks to Shane Gunster)