Utopianism n : the political orientation of a utopian who believes in impossibly idealistic schemes social perfection
- For Sir Thomas More's novel of 1516, see Utopia (book).
The word comes from Greek: οὐ, "not", and τόπος, "place", indicating that More was utilizing the concept as allegory and did not consider such an ideal place to be realistically possible. It is worth noting that the homophone Eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ, "good" or "well", and τόπος, "place", signifies a double meaning that was almost certainly intended. Despite this, most modern usage of the term "Utopia" incorrectly assumes the latter meaning, that of a place of perfection rather than nonexistence.
- Dystopia is a negative utopia: a totalitarian and repressive world. Examples: Jack London's The Iron Heel, George Orwell's 1984; Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange; Alan Moore's V for Vendetta; Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale; Evgenii Zamiatin's We; Ayn Rand's Anthem; Samuel Butler's Erewhon; Chuck Palahniuk's Rant; Cormac McCarthy's The Road; Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira
- Eutopia is a positive utopia, different in that it means "perfect" but not "fictional".
- Outopia derived from the Greek 'ou' for "no" and '-topos' for "place," a fictional, this means unrealistic or directly translated "Nothing, Nowhere" This is the other half from Eutopia, and the two together combine to Utopia.
- Heterotopia, the "other place", with its real and imagined possibilities (a mix of "utopian" escapism and turning virtual possibilities into reality) — example: cyberspace. Samuel R. Delany's novel Trouble on Triton is subtitled An Ambiguous Heterotopia to highlight that it is not strictly utopian (though not dystopian). The novel offers several conflicting perspectives on the concept of utopia.
Some questions have arisen about the fact that writers and people in history have used utopia to define a perfect place, as utopia is a perfect but unreal place. A proper definition of a perfect and real place is eutopia.
More's utopia is largely based on Plato's Republic. It is a perfect version of Republic wherein the beauties of society reign (eg: equality and a general pacifist attitude), although its citizens are all ready to fight if need be. The evils of society, eg: poverty and misery, are all removed. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples). The society encourages tolerance of all religions. Some readers have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More's Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent equivocation between the Greek for "no place" and "good place": "Utopia" is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning "no", and topos, meaning place. But the homonymous prefix eu-, meaning "good," also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly "good place" is really "no place."'''
Economic utopiaThese utopias are based on economics. Most intentional communities attempting to create an economic utopia were formed in response to the harsh economic conditions of the 19th century.
Particularly in the early nineteenth century, several utopian ideas arose, often in response to the social disruption created by the development of commercialism and capitalism. These are often grouped in a greater "utopian socialist" movement, due to their shared characteristics: an egalitarian distribution of goods, frequently with the total abolition of money, and citizens only doing work which they enjoy and which is for the common good, leaving them with ample time for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. One classic example of such a utopia was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. Another socialist utopia is William Morris' News from Nowhere, written partially in response to the top-down (bureaucratic) nature of Bellamy's utopia, which Morris criticized. However, as the socialist movement developed it moved away from utopianism; Marx in particular became a harsh critic of earlier socialism he described as utopian. (For more information see the History of Socialism article.) Also consider Eric Frank Russell's book The Great Explosion (1963) whose last section details an economic and social utopia. This forms the first mention of the idea of Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS).
Utopias have also been imagined by the opposite side of the political spectrum. For example, Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress portrays an individualistic and libertarian utopia. Capitalist utopias of this sort are generally based on free market economies, in which the presupposition is that private enterprise and personal initiative without an institution of coercion, government, provides the greatest opportunity for achievement and progress of both the individual and society as a whole.
There is another view that capitalist utopias do not address the issue of market failure, any more than socialist utopias address the issue of planning failure. Thus a blend of socialism and capitalism is seen by few as the type of economy in a utopia. It talks about the idea of small community owned enterprises working under the capitalist model of economy.
Political and historical utopiaPolitical utopias are ones in which the government establishes a society that is striving toward perfection. A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible inevitable endings of history. Sparta was a militaristic eutopia founded by Lycurgus (though some, especially Athenians, may have considered it a dystopia). It was a Greek power until its defeat by the Thebans at the battle of Leuctra.
These are set in the future, when it is believed that advanced science and technology will allow utopian living standards; for example, the absence of death and suffering; changes in human nature and the human condition. These utopian societies tend to change what "human" is all about. Technology has affected the way humans have lived to such an extent that normal functions, like sleep, eating or even reproduction, has been replaced by an artificial means. Other kinds of this utopia envisioned, include a society where humans have struck a balance with technology and it is merely used to enhance the human living condition (e.g. Star Trek). In place of the static perfection of a utopia, libertarian transhumanists envision an "extropia", an open, evolving society allowing individuals and voluntary groupings to form the institutions and social forms they prefer.
Garrett Jones published "Ourtopia" in 2004, arguing that, instead of a 'no place' we need to use all the resources at our command to make 'our place' proof against climate change and obsolete tribalisms. Buckminster Fuller presented a theoretical basis for technological utopianism and set out to develop a variety of technologies ranging from maps to designs for cars and houses which might lead to the development of such a utopia.
One notable example of a technological and libertarian socialist utopia is Scottish author Iain M. Banks' Culture.
A variation on this theme was found earlier in the theories of eugenics. Believing that many traits were hereditary in nature, the eugenists believed that not only healthier, more intelligent race could be bred, but many other traits could be selected for, including "talent", or against, including drunkness and criminality. This called for "positive eugenics" encouraging those with good genes to have children, and "negative eugenics" discouraging those with bad genes, or preventing them altogether by confinement or forcible sterilization.
Opposing this optimism is the prediction that advanced science and technology will, through deliberate misuse or accident, cause environmental damage or even humanity's extinction. Critics advocate precautions against the premature embrace of new technologies.
UtopianismUtopianism refers to various social and political movements.
In many cultures, societies, religions, and cosmogonies, there is some myth or memory of a distant past when humankind lived in a primitive and simple state, but at the same time one of perfect happiness and fulfillment. In those days, the various myths tell us, there was an instinctive harmony between man and nature. Men's needs were few and their desires limited. Both were easily satisfied by the abundance provided by nature. Accordingly, there were no motives whatsoever for war or oppression. Nor was there any need for hard and painful work. Humans were simple and pious, and felt themselves close to the gods.
These mythical or religious archetypes are inscribed in all the cultures and resurge with special vitality when people are in difficult and critical times. However, the projection of the myth does not take place towards the remote past, but either towards the future or towards distant and fictional places, imagining that at some time of the future, at some point of the space or beyond the death must exist the possibility of living happily.
These myths of the earliest stage of humankind have been referred to by various names:
Golden Age The Greek poet Hesiod, around the 8th century BC, in his compilation of the mythological tradition (the poem Works and Days), explained that, prior to the present era, there were other four progressively more perfect ones, the oldest of which was the Golden age.
Plutarch, the Greek historian and biographer of the 1st century, dealt with the blissful and mythic past of the humanity.
Arcadia Arcadia, e.g. in Sir Philip Sidney's prose romance The Old Arcadia (1580). Originally a region in the Peloponnesus, Arcadia became a synonym for any rural area that serves as a pastoral setting, as a locus amoenus ("delightful place"):
The Biblical Garden of Eden The Biblical Garden of Eden as depicted in Genesis 2 (Authorized Version of 1611):
"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. [...]
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. [...]
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; [...] And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
The Land of Cokaygne The Land of Cokaygne [also spelled Cockaygne or Cockaigne] (in the German tradition referred to as "Schlaraffenland"http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlaraffenland) has been aptly called the "poor man's heaven", being a popular fantasy of pure hedonism and thus a foil for the innocent and instinctively virtuous life that is depicted in all the other accounts mentioned above. Cockaygne is a land of extravagance and excess rather than simplicity and piety. There is freedom from work, and every material thing is free and available. Cooked larks fly straight into one's mouth; the rivers run with wine; sexual promiscuity is the norm; and there is a fountain of youth which keeps everyone young and active.
There is a medieval poem (c. 1315) written in rhyming couplets which is entitled "The Land of Cokaygne":
"Far in the sea, to the west of Spain, Is a country called Cokaygne. There's no land not anywhere, In goods or riches to compare. Though Paradise be merry and bright Cokaygne is of far fairer sight...."
Finding utopiaAll these myths also express some hope that the idyllic state of affairs they describe is not irretrievably and irrevocably lost to mankind, that it can be regained in some way or other.
One way would be to look for the earthly paradise -- for a place like Shangri-La, hidden in the Tibetan mountains and described by James Hilton in his Utopian novel Lost Horizon (1933). Such paradise on earth must be somewhere if only man were able to find it. Christopher Columbus followed directly in this tradition in his belief that he had found the Garden of Eden when, towards the end of the 15th century, he first encountered the New World and its indigenous inhabitants.
Another way of regaining the lost paradise (or Paradise Lost, as 17th century English poet John Milton calls it) would be to wait for the future, for the return of the Golden Age. According to Christian theology, the Fall from Paradise, caused by Man alone when he disobeyed God ("but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it"), has resulted in the wickedness of character that all human beings have been born with since (original sin).
In a scientific approach to finding utopia, the Global Scenario Group, an international group of scientists founded by Paul Raskin, used scenario analysis and backcasting to map out a path to an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable future. Its findings suggest that a global citizens' movement is necessary to steer political, economic, and corporate entities toward this new sustainability paradigm.
Examples of utopiaSee also utopian and dystopian fiction
- Observe & Control's Debut Album "Utopia" is a musical project that serves as a homage for the rise and fall of Utopian Projects.
- New Australia
- Plato's Republic (400 BC) was, at least on one level, a description of a political utopia ruled by an elite of philosopher kings, conceived by Plato. (Compare to his Laws, discussing laws for a real city.)
- The City of God (written 413–426) by Augustine of Hippo, describes an ideal city, the "eternal" Jerusalem, the archetype of all Christian utopias.
- Utopia (1516) by Thomas More a Gutenberg text of the book
- Reipublicae Christianopolitanae descriptio (Beschreibung des Staates Christenstadt) (1619) by Johann Valentin Andreæ, describes a Christian utopia inhabited by a community of scholar-artisans and run as a democracy.
- The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) by Robert Burton, a utopian society is described in the preface.
- The City of the Sun (1623) by Tommaso Campanella depicts a theocratic and communist society.
- The New Atlantis (1627) by Francis Bacon.
- Zwaanendael Colony (1631) by Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy in Delaware.
- News from Nowhere by William Morris (1892), ... Pardon me Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss Midmost the beating of the steely sea. Shows "Nowhere", a place without politics, a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
- Gloriana, or the Revolution of 1900 (1890) by Lady Florence Dixie. The female protagonist poses as a man, Hector l'Estrange, is elected to the House of Commons, and wins women the vote. The book ends in the year 1999, with a description of a prosperous and peaceful Britain governed by women.
- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), a pseudo-utopian satire (see also dystopia).
- Shangri-La described in the novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton (1933)
- Islandia (1942), by Austin Tappan Wright, an imaginary island in the Southern Hemisphere, a utopian containing many Arcadian elements, including a rejection of technology.
- Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game (1943) shows Castalia, a utopian society for the intellectual elite.
- B. F. Skinner's Walden Two (1948)
- The Cloud of Magellan (1955) by Stanisław Lem
- Andromeda Nebula (1957) is a classic communist utopia by Ivan Efremov
- Island (novel) (1962) by Aldous Huxley follows the story of Will Farnaby, a cynical journalist, who shipwrecks on the fictional island of Pala and experiences their unique culture and traditions which create a utopian society. Often considered his antithesis to Brave New World.
- The Great Explosion, Eric Frank Russell (1963) In the last section setting out a workable utopian economic system leading to a different social and political reality.
- The Corridors of Time by Poul Anderson (1965) features a protagonist recruited by a woman from a future society to go back in time to help her fight her dystopian, time-traveling foes, who dominate half the world in her time. The utopian claims of her society are undermined, especially by time-travelers from a more distant, actually utopian future who plunge him into aspects of it hidden from him, and hint that their future must be brought about by his actions.
- The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (1969), by Ursula K. Le Guin, about the costs of utopia
- Imagine (song) (1971) by John Lennon, prays for "brotherhood of man", which would exist in a utopia without hell or heaven.
- The Probability Broach (1980), by L. Neil Smith, presents both utopian and dysutopian views of present day North America, through alternative outcomes of the American War for Independence.
- Always Coming Home (1985), by Ursula K. Le Guin, a combination of fiction and fictional anthropology about a society in California in the distant future
- The Kingdom of Zeal in Chrono Trigger (1995)
- The Hedonistic Imperative (1996), an online manifesto by David Pearce, outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.
- The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You (1976) by Dorothy Bryant
- The Matrix (1999), a film by the Wachowski brothers, describes a virtual reality controlled by artificial intelligence such as Agent Smith. Smith says that the first Matrix was a utopia, but humans rejected it because they "define their reality through misery and suffering." Therefore, the Matrix was redesigned to simulate human civilization with all its suffering.
- Utopia (2000), song by Goldfrapp exploring the idea of how the 'ideal person' could come about from genetic engineering.
- K-PAX (2001), a film based on the book of the same name, is about a man who calls himself prot, an alien from a "utopian planet" K-PAX.
- Equilibrium (2002), a film about an utopia where all emotion is forbidden, which is considered the only way to peace and balance.
- Xen: Ancient English Edition (2004) presents a utopia with a bias toward matriarchy, in the distant future of Earth, "translated" by D.J. Solomon
- Ourtopia, (2004) is Garrett Jones's projection of an ideal planet towards which to work.
- Ensaio sobre a Lucidez ("Treatise on Lucidity") by José Saramago (2004), describes a city where there is 83% of blank votes at an election.
- Globus Cassus (2004), is a project for the transformation of the Earth into a large, hollow structure inhabited on the inside, which would be organised by new types of societies and political systems.
- Celebration, Florida, a city developed by The Walt Disney Company.
- The first story arc in the seventh season (2004–2005) of the supernatural dramedy series Charmed involves the transformation of the world into an utopia through the fear of a common enemy.
- Lois Lowry's The Giver
- Doris Lessing's Shikasta, Memoirs of a Survivor
- Elisabeth Vonarburg's Reluctant Voyagers (Les Voyageurs malgre eux, 1994)
- Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis Trilogy
- Muriel Jaeger's 1920s novels The Question Mark, The Man with Six Senses
- Sheri S. Tepper's Beauty, Grass
- Joanna Russ's The Female Man
- Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland
- Scott Westerfeld's Uglies shows a futuristic society where one transforms greatly aesthetically at the age of 16, through intense plastic surgery, to live in a society where all is peaceful and beautiful.
- Bioshock (2007) is a video game by 2K Boston/2K Australia is set in a gruesome collapsed utopia underwater named Rapture during the 1960s (It was created after WWII 1946 and collapsed after its peak in the early 1960s).
- German power metal band Domain's concept album Last Days of Utopia tells the story of a man who, after finding his life ruined due to an incident we are not told about, goes across the sea to seek a perfect life, and finds an island called Utopia, where all his dreams are answered. Unfortunately, after telling the people of Utopia his tragic past, they begin to question and even rebel against their gods, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the perfect land.
- The Doctor Who episode Utopia depicts the last of the human race in the future trying to find a safe haven, but it is revealed in Last of the Time Lords that Utopia was not as it was thought to be.
Related terms and concepts
- Abolitionism (bioethics)
- Christian anarchism
- El Dorado
- Garden of Eden
- Intentional Community
- Regional planning
- Simple living
- Speculative fiction and science fiction
- Urban planning
- Utopia Planitia
- Utopian and dystopian fiction
- Kumar, Krishan (1991) Utopianism (Milton Keynes: Open University Press) ISBN 0-335-15361-5
- Manuel, Frank & Manuel, Fritzie (1979) Utopian Thought in the Western World (Oxford: Blackwell) ISBN 0-674-93185-8
- Hine, Robert V. (1983) California's Utopian Colonies (University of California Press) ISBN 0-520-04885-7
- Kumar, K (1987) Utopia and Anti-utopia in Modern Times (Oxford: Blackwell) ISBN 0-631-16714-5
- Shadurski, Maxim I. (2007) Literary Utopias from More to Huxley: The Issues of Genre Poetics and Semiosphere. Finding an Island (Moscow: URSS) ISBN 978-5-382-00362-7
- Thomas More's Utopia full text from Project Gutenberg (English translation)
- Thomas More's Utopia the original text from The Latin Library
- Utopia - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001
- Society for Utopian Studies - an international, interdisciplinary association devoted to the study of utopianism, with a particular emphasis on literary and experimental utopias.
- History of 15 Finnish utopian settlements in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
- Towards Another Utopia of The City Institute of Urban Design, Bremen, Germany
- Utopias - a learning resource from the British Library
- Utopia and Utopianism - an academic journal
- Utopia of the GOOD An essay on Utopias and their nature.
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