Literary Utopian Societies

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Literary Utopian Societies

“The vision of one century is often the reality of the next…” (Nelson 108). Throughout time, great minds have constructed their own visions of utopia. Through the study of utopias, one finds that these “perfect” societies have many flaws. For example, most utopias tend to have an authoritarian nature (Manuel 3). Also, another obvious imperfection found in the majority of utopias is that of a faulty social class system (Thomas 94). But one must realized that the flaws found in utopian societies serve a specific purpose. These faults are used to indicate problems in contemporary society (Eurich 5, Targowski 1). Over the years, utopian societies have been beneficial in setting improved standards for society. By pointing out the faults of society, improvement is the most likely next step. Citizens should take advantage of utopian literature in order to better future societal conditions (Nelson 104). Because it is impossible to create a perfect society in which everyone’s needs can be met, society must analyze utopias in order to improve their existing environment.

Plato’s Republic was the first “true” work considered to be utopian literature. In fact, the Republic influenced almost all later text written on the subject of utopia (Manuel 7). Although the Republic was one of the most influential works in utopian literature, the society that it represented also had many obvious flaws. First, Plato’s utopia had a distinct class system (Morely iii, Bloom xiii). The privileged class that ruled the society also enforced censorship in order to keep control over the Republic (Manuel 5). To perform all of the lowly tasks of the society, a system of slavery was enforced (Manuel 9). In addition, different forms of propaganda were used to keep the citizens in check (Manuel 5, Bloom xiv). The political and economic systems, in which the wealthy class controlled all the funds, were extremely restrictive (Mumford 4, Bloom xiii). With the society being in opposition to change, it would have obviously failed. A static society, in which propaganda is used to promote the State, disrupts the creative thinking process. And, without the creative thinking process, intellectual growth as a whole also slows (Mumford 4, Benz 3).

Yet another famous Utopian society that appears to thrive on the surface is that of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. More’s society was ...

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...us. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1932.

Kateb, George, ed. Utopia. New York: Atherton Press, 1971.

Manuel, Frank E., ed. Utopias and Utopian Thought. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966.

Morley, Henry, ed. Ideal Commonwealths. New York: Kennikat Press, 1968.

Mumford, Lewis. The Story of Utopias. New York: The Viking Press, 1962.

Nelson, William, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Utopia. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Taragowski, Henry W. Utopia. 6 Jan. 1999 <http://www.euro.net/mark-space/glosUtopia.html>.

Thomas, John L., ed. Looking Backward 2000-1887. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Utopia and Utopian Philosophy. Ed. Jon Will. 1999. Utopia Pathway Association. 6 Jan. 1999 <http://users.erols.com/jonwill/>.

Validation of Electronic Sources

Phillip Benz received a Master’s Degree in English Literature and currently teaches in France.

Philip Coupland is a professor at Warwick University.

Jon Will is the Vice President of the Utopia Pathway Association.

Henry Taragowski is a professor at Xavier University.

Peter Fitting is the Chairman of the Society for Utopian Studies.
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