Disciplines: Philosophy, Political Science

Label usually applied in a hostile sense to those who advocate - or are wildly optimistic in thinking they can achieve - a state of affairs perfect in some or all respects.

One charge is that the excessive and unrealistic pursuit of some good can lead to gross neglect of other goods and even of elementary justice. The term derives from an essay written in 1516 by English statesman and humanist Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), who constructed it from the Greek for, roughly, 'no place' (or, if he had in mind another etymology, 'good place').

Utopias are frequent in literature, the earliest serious one being Plato's Republic (c.380 BC).

Recently Utopias have tended to be replaced by 'dystopias' (on the analogy of 'dyspepsia', 'dyslexic' and so on), such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1931) and George Orwell's 1984 (1948).

Also see: negarive utilitarianism

Krishnan Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (Oxford, 1987)


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