See Wikipedia:Utopia (disambiguation) for other meanings of this word

Utopia, in its most common and general meaning, refers to a hypothetical perfect society. It has also been used to describe actual communities founded in attempts to create such a society. The adjective utopian is often used to refer to good but (physically, socially, economically, or politically) impossible proposals, or at least ones that are very difficult to implement.

A utopia can be either idealistic or Wikipedia:practical, but the term has acquired a strong Wikipedia:connotation of optimistic, idealistic, impossible Wikipedia:perfection. The utopia may be usefully contrasted with the undesirable Wikipedia:dystopia (anti-utopia) and the satirical utopia.

Origin of the term Edit

The term Utopia was coined by Wikipedia:Thomas More as the title of his Latin book De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia (circa Wikipedia:1516), known more commonly as Utopia. He created the word "utopia" to suggest two Greek neologisms simultaneously: outopia (no place) and eutopia (good place). In this original context, the word carried none of the modern connotations associated with it.

More depicts a rationally organised society, through the narration of an explorer who discovers it - Raphael Hythlodaeus. Utopia is a Wikipedia:republic where all property is held in common. In addition, it has few laws, no Wikipedia:lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbours.

It is likely that More, a religious layman who once considered joining the Church as a priest, was inspired by monachal life when he described the workings of his society. More lived during the age when the Wikipedia:Renaissance was beginning to assert itself in England, and the old medieval ideals – including the monastic ideal – were declining. Some of More's ideas reflect a nostalgia for that medieval past. It was an inspiration for the Wikipedia:Reducciones established by the Wikipedia:Jesuits to Wikipedia:Christianize and "Wikipedia:civilize" the Wikipedia:Guaranis.

Other termsEdit

  • Eutopia is a positive utopia, roughly equivalent to the regular use of the word "utopia".
  • Wikipedia:Dystopia is a negative utopia.

Other subcategories include Arcadias and Wikipedia:Cockaygnes. Wikipedia:Ruth Levitas is one who has developed such a categorisation.

Economic utopiasEdit

Particularly in the early nineteenth century, several utopian ideas arose, often in response to the social disruption created by the development of Wikipedia:commercialism and Wikipedia:capitalism. These are often grouped in a greater "utopian socialist" movement, due to their shared characteristics: an Wikipedia:egalitarian distribution of goods, frequently with the total abolition of Wikipedia:money, and citizens only doing work which they enjoy and which is for the Wikipedia:common good, leaving them with ample time for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. One classic example of such an utopia was Wikipedia:Edward Bellamy's Wikipedia:Looking Backward. Another socialist utopia is Wikipedia:William Morris' Wikipedia:News from Nowhere, written partially in response to the top-down (Wikipedia:bureaucratic) nature of Bellamy's utopia, which Morris criticized. However, as time passed and the socialist movement matured, utopianism was discarded. Socialists grounded their ideas firmly in the realities of the age; among the different emerging socialist currents, Wikipedia:Marxism became by far the harshest critic of utopian socialism. (for more information see the Wikipedia:History of Socialism article)

Utopias have also been imagined by the opposite side of the political spectrum. For example, Wikipedia:Robert Heinlein's Wikipedia:The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an individualistic and Wikipedia:libertarian utopia. Capitalist utopias of this sort are generally based on perfect market economies, in which there is no Wikipedia:market failure—or the issue is never addressed. Some cynics, usually Wikipedia:socialists, see most Wikipedia:economics textbooks as being nothing but stories of Wikipedia:capitalist utopias.

Political and historical utopiasEdit

A global utopia of Wikipedia:world peace is often seen as one of the possible inevitable endings of history.

Wikipedia:Sparta was a militaristic utopia founded by Wikipedia:Lycurgus (though some, especially Athenians, may have thought it was rather a Wikipedia:dystopia). It was a Greek power until its defeat by the Thebans at the Wikipedia:battle of Leuctra.

Religious utopiasEdit

The Christian and Islamic ideas of Wikipedia:heaven tend to be utopian, especially in their folk-religious forms: inviting speculation about existence free of sin and poverty or any sorrow, beyond the power of death (although "heaven" in Wikipedia:Christian eschatology at least, is more nearly equivalent to life within God Himself, visualized as an earth-like paradise in the sky). In a similar sense, the Buddhist concept of Wikipedia:Nirvana may be thought of as a kind of utopia. Religious utopias, perhaps expansively described as a garden of delights, existence free of worry amid streets paved with gold, in a bliss of enlightenment enjoying nearly godlike powers, are often a reason for perceiving benefit in remaining faithful to a religion, and an incentive for converting new members.

In the Wikipedia:United States during the Wikipedia:Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century, many radical religious groups formed utopian societies. They sought to form communities where all aspects of people's lives could be governed by their faith. Among the best-known of these utopian societies was the Shaker movement. The largest such movement was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' settlement in Wikipedia:Utah after Wikipedia:1846 (See Wikipedia:Mormon Pioneer).

See also: End of the world, Wikipedia:Eschatology, Wikipedia:Millennialism, Wikipedia:Utopianism

Scientific and technological utopiasEdit

These are set in the future, when it is believed that advanced Wikipedia:science and Wikipedia:technology will allow utopian living standards; for example, the absence of Wikipedia:death and Wikipedia:suffering; changes in Wikipedia:human nature and the Wikipedia:human condition. 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.

One notable example of a technological and Wikipedia:libertarian socialist utopia is Scottish author Iain M. Bank's Culture.

See also: Wikipedia:hedonistic imperative, Wikipedia:transhumanism, Wikipedia:technological singularity, Wikipedia:abolitionist society

Opposing this Wikipedia:optimism is the prediction that advanced science and technology will, through deliberate misuse or accident, cause humanity's Wikipedia:extinction. These pessimists advocate precautions over embracement of new technology.


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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