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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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The word “utopia” derives from two Greek words,
εὐτόποσ and οὐτόποσ, meaning respectively “good
place” and “no place.” Utopian writings have reflected
this ambiguity, being sometimes visions of good and
possibly attainable social systems and at other times
fantasies of a desirable but unattainable perfection. The
imaginary societies denoted by the term “utopia” are
all presented as better than any existing society because
of the rationality, harmony, utility, and order prevail-
ing within them. Furthermore the imagined social
systems they embody are better in the sense that men
living in these regimes are either morally better people,
happier, more self-fulfilled, or freer because conflicts
have been eliminated from their environment and
personality. Utopian writings have been one expression
of the belief that given reasonable, natural, and truly
just institutions man's lot can really be immeasurably
improved. Since the seventeenth century utopian writ-
ings have been a constant expression of social idealism,
hope, and optimism even though some utopists have
stressed the illusory nature of their visions and have


found in their impossibility a despairing statement of
human finitude and man's radical imperfection. Most
utopias have been produced within Western civili-
zation. Though other cultures had myths of a golden
age and other proto-utopian forms, only the Chinese
seem to have produced indigenous utopian writings
prior to the influence of Western culture. Even in
China the genre did not flourish until Western civili-
zation impinged upon Chinese consciousness influenc-
ing a few writers like K'ang Yieu Wei (1858-1927),
whose The United States of the World appeared in
1935, fifty years after it was begun. In the West, utopias
owed much to ancient classical images of ideal social

Perhaps the earliest expression of utopianism in
Greek culture is the portrayal of the Golden Age in
the works of Hesiod (ca. 750 B.C.). Hesiod describes
a time when “... the fruitful earth spontaneously bore
[men] abundant fruit without stint. And they lived in
ease and peace upon their land with many good things
rich in flocks and beloved of the blessed gods” (Hesiod,
Works and Days, 109-21). Here the perfect social
conditions is in the pre-urban past in which neither men
nor classes struggled for power or property. Idleness,
luxury, war, religious strife and other forms of conflict,
ennui and malaise find no place in a rustic setting
where men live simply, morally, and happily at peace
with themselves and nature which abundantly supplies
their needs. Many cultures preserve the image of such
a golden age in the past and thus know of a utopia
gone and not to be regained as long as life is compli-
cated, urbanized, and filled with contention, and eco-
nomic scarcities are man's inheritance. Lewis Mumford
has argued (Daedalus [Spring 1965], 273) that “Such
a society had indeed come into existence at the end
of the last Ice Age, if not before, when the long process
of domestication had come to a head in the establish-
ment of small, stable communities, with an abundant
and varied food supply....” The first utopias would
seem to be the pleasant but nostalgic folk memories
of this state, standing in idealized contrast to the urban
regulated world of war and social strife which suc-
ceeded as Iron-Age populations grew and rational and
religious control systems were elaborated with the
founding of the ancient cities. In Greek thought this
second urban stage of civilization produced a series
of visions of an ideal order which also harked back
to a once real social condition. The ancient cities were
rigidly structured institutions which Mumford has
called (ibid., p. 283) “not only 'utopia' but the most
impressive and most enduring of all utopias.... For
to an extraordinary extent the archetypal [ancient] city
[everywhere] placed the stamp of divine order and
human purpose on all its institutions....” The Repub
lic of Plato owes something to this real, but in his time
already archaic and passing, social organization.

The Republic (ca. 370-360 B.C.) is the first great
extant utopian work detailing the institutions of an
ideal social order. It is not, however, the first of such
speculations in Greek culture, for Aristotle mentions
in his Politics (Book II, Chs. 7 and 8, 1266a-1268b)
Phaleas of Chalcedon who, he says, “was the first to
affirm that the citizens of a state ought to have equal
possessions,” and Hippodamus of Miletus “who was the
first person not a statesman who made inquiries about
the best form of government.” The Republic appeared
at a time when the polis or city-state was proving to
be an inadequate institution. Too small to organize
large areas or to rule over subject peoples, it was large
enough to contain unruly factions and demagogic
leaders. Population growth and the militancy of the
Greeks whose internecine quarrels tended to embroil
city-states in each other's affairs had resulted in a
period of warfare which would end only when the Pax
was imposed upon the ancient world. Plato's
Republic attempted to provide guidance to Athens and
its competitors in this time of troubles and to assure
good men that the pursuit of justice and virtue would
be rewarded in this life and the next (Republic X, 621).

The ideal republic as he sketched it was not only
a reasoned contrivance enabling men to live the good
life but the timeless, eternal, and good form of social
organization. It was, like Plutarch's Sparta, the ulti-
mate rationalization of the ancient city controlling
every aspect of social existence in the name of justice,
order, freedom, peace, strength, stability, and goodness.
Ruled by wise men, protected by valiant warriors, and
served by men of lesser abilities, Plato's republic, like
most utopias conceived before the eighteenth century,
was anything but democratic. The division of labor was
elaborate and controlled by the governing intellectual
elite who did not toil but organized production and
distribution and kept the population limited to an
optimal level. These philosopher-rulers regulated the
beliefs of the people, teaching each class what it ought
to know and training each for its social role. They
decided all questions of government and maintained
an ideal status quo in this most static and unhistorical
of realms. Often described as a form of communism,
the Platonic republic is perhaps more accurately
described as a rationalized version of the communi-
tarian ideal embodied in the polis. While the work is
utopian in the sense of being an unrealizable ideal,
many of the institutions with which it is provided were
or were thought to have been in existence somewhere
in the ancient world. As a guide to action, action which
would realize only in imperfect and changeable form
the idea of a perfect polis, the Republic was not wholly


utopian and in this respect as in many others it served
as model and source for later utopists.

Sparta, so well disciplined, pure and successful,
inspired the admiration not only of Plato but of many
other writers, one of whom left an account of its legis-
lator which became a source for later utopists.
Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus (ca. A.D. 100), the Spartan
lawgiver, describes the social institutions which
Lycurgus is supposed to have created for the Spartans
and which made them austere, morally upright, simple,
self-sacrificing, brave, hardy, and in a way happy in
their freedom. Lycurgus stands in utopian and much
nonutopian political writing as the archetypal legis-
lator, the charismatic leader who, given the power and
opportunity, shaped the destinies of a real people as
decisively as have his descendants, who have in nu-
merous utopias transformed the characters of ordinary
men into perfect and ideal citizens. Lycurgus equalized
property in Sparta, all but abolished money, regulated
and ordered the lives of its citizens for their own and
the state's good. The social order he created and the
training and education which he designed to sustain
it were directed to making the Spartans an efficient
military power capable of defending their liberty and
way of life which they saw almost as divine and
unchangeable. Plutarch reports that the Spartans
honored Lycurgus as a god, consecrating a temple to
his memory. The image of Sparta and the possible
changes which an enlightened legislator could make
offered utopists a fascinating vision of rational social
control and a means of realizing it if only the proper
leader could be found.

Later descriptions of ideal societies owe much to
other classical works. Idyllic depictions of the Golden
Age among Arcadians, Hyperboreans, Panchaeans, and
Atlanteans appeared in the works of Euhemerus, Ovid,
Lucian of Samosata, and others. Plato's Laws (ca. 340),
Aristotle's Politics, and Xenophon's Cyropaedia, while
not utopias, provided materials from which later
writers borrowed institutions, notions of enlightened
rule and conceptions of human goodness and happiness
to be found in civic, particularly urban, life. The foun-
der of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, and later Stoics as
well as eclectic thinkers like Cicero, enlarged the
image of an ideal social order to include all mankind
and not merely those within a walled city.

The ancient world produced another profoundly
different source of Western utopianism. The Hebraic
tradition, as it came to the West in the Bible, has a
number of utopian elements. The view of Eden in
Genesis (Chapter 2) was sketchy enough to make men
wish to describe it more fully. The conception of a
theocratic state in which all is ordered for the glory
of the god of a particular people endowed with a
unique cult has attracted later writers. The vision of
peace and harmony which possessed the Deutero-Isaiah
also has its utopian aspects as do other eschatological
and apocalyptic portions of the Bible. The pseudo-
epigraphic works of the Jews and early Christians make
much of epochs and eons to come which will be totally
different and better than this decayed and sorrowful
world. The vision of paradise held by early Christian
writers added another not dissimilar utopian element.
Nevertheless the biblical tradition has consistently
worked against utopianism while furthering chiliastic
and millenarian beliefs; it has done so because the trans-
formations of man's life which are revealed are really
the works of God and not of men, reordering their life
in a rational and natural way. The apocalypse of Peter
contains a typical and short account of such super-
natural paradise which God, not men, will produce.
(Cf. Eurich, p. 18.)

Speculations about such an ideal existence had
perforce to be speculations about God's providence and
not men's plans and efforts. The stress in the Christian
tradition upon the sinfulness and imperfection of fallen
man also worked against utopianism. There could be
but one perfect man, Christ Jesus, and only the City
of God, not of this world, manifested through grace
the perfections for which utopians longed and hoped.
The world as a place of sin, disorder, and suffering
could be purged, judged, and redeemed, but it could
not be radically reformed and perfected by fallen men.
Paradise lost or regained was the only utopia possible
and God alone held its keys. From the beginning of
the Christian era to the sixteenth century Christian
utopian longings usually took the form of millenarian-
ism and utopia the appearance of a redeemed world.

Christianity did, however, provide one notable
source and sanction for utopian thought and practice.
The account of the first Christians contained in The
Acts of the Apostles presents the apostle Peter as a
preacher of a social as well as a religious gospel.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and
fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers....
And all that believed were together, and had all things
common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted
them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continu-
ing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and
singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with
all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily
such as should be saved

(Acts 2:42, 44-47).

This passage so manifestly descriptive of a sectarian
communist society gathered as a saved and saving
remnant has been the favorite text of utopians claiming
to be Christian since the Reformation. Used as a proof
text it was the authorization appealed to by the leaders


of most nineteenth-century American religious utopian
communities such as the Rappites, the Inspirationists,
and the Oneida Community. On the whole, Christi-
anity has not been utopian in outlook and has branded
as heretics those who took the apostle's message
literally. There were consequently few utopian works
written during the Christian Middle Ages. At best the
land of Cockane, the realm of Prester John, and per-
haps Dante's scheme for a universal monarchy show
that a glimmer of utopianism persisted.

The Renaissance, which gave expression to so many
new currents of optimism and secularism, saw a rebirth
of utopian writing. Nicholas of Cusa in the fifteenth
century postulated a semi-utopian order embracing all
mankind in a world in which politics and religion had
ceased to be disruptive forces. The burgeoning life of
Italian city-states led men such as Leonardo da Vinci
to think about remaking their world. The utopianism
of such artists and architects, if it can be called that,
was a reflection of urban growth. Its character has been
nicely summed up by Eugenio Garin (in Les utopies
à la renaissance,
“La cité idéale de la renaissance
italienne,” p. 35). What mattered to these men were
earthly ends and values. Political reorganization was
to be the strategy to achieve them. Their plans were
instinct with urban life and reflected its problems, no-
tably international, and class conflict.

Urban development and consciousness provided but
one stimulus to the production of Renaissance utopias.
Religious turmoil, the upheaval of societies occasioned
by economic growth, and the emergence of larger and
stronger states, the exciting voyages of discovery were
potent stimuli to the production of social visions and
precise plans. The pre-Reformation Utopia (1516) of
Sir Thomas More has its roots in all of these elements.
More's projection of the ideal society is qualified in
one important respect: Utopia is the best regime which
fallen sinful men unaided by revelation are capable
of creating. Because it lacks Christianity, it is a
radically imperfect society. It is a proclamation of the
limits of reason and human finitude as well as a state-
ment of social idealism. It is consequently a statement
of Christian humanism exemplifying the new-found
moral and religious earnestness in which the Reforma-
tion and the Counter-Reformation were rooted. More's
utopian society is one designed to humble the pride
of its citizens through rigid controls. Its social policies
are ideal solutions to the problems of poverty, eco-
nomic dislocation, and bad government which six-
teenth-century societies knew all too well. The narrator
of the account of the Utopia, Ralph Hythloday, is
presented as having been a companion of the Floren-
tine navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, and himself an even
more remarkable explorer. More's Utopia, like Plato's
Republic, set a pattern and a style for the genre which
was by and large unchanged until the late eighteenth
century. The timeless, static society in which history
is discounted, the totalitarian patterns of control, the
location of the society in the present but in a remote,
unexplored area, the concern with communism, natural
religion, and the overcoming of the problem of eco-
nomic scarcity by means of a strict control of produc-
tion, distribution or population—all these became
hallmarks of the genre in the sixteenth century.

Seventeenth-century utopias are perhaps the most
fascinating of any period because they reveal so fully
the intellectual currents of the time. The first important
one of the century was Tommaso Campanella's Civitas
(The City of the Sun, 1602-27). Betraying an
interest in astrology, hermeticism, and esoteric knowl-
edge, his work also shows this defender of Galileo to
have been an ardent proponent of the new science and
a reviler of Aristotle. Campanella's vision possesses an
almost chiliastic dimension, for the future includes
great changes, even the establishment of a universal
Christian monarchy. Campanella's world is one replete
with inventions in which new scientific knowledge is
applied for man's welfare, but more interesting is his
changed attitude toward the future and the sense of
destiny, almost progress, which hangs over the world
at the end of his book:

Indeed, since these people, who know only the natural law,
so closely approach Christianity, which adds to the laws
of nature only the sacraments, which give aid in observing
these laws, I deduce the valid argument in favor of the
Christian religion that it is the truest of all and that when
its abuses have been removed it will be mistress over the
whole world, as the more outstanding theologians teach and
hope. They say that this is the reason the Spaniards dis-
covered the New World (although the first discoverer is our
great Genoese hero Columbus): that the whole world may
be gathered under one law. Therefore, these philosophers
must be witnesses of the truth, chosen by God. From this
I realize that we do not know what we are doing but are
the instruments of God. Those men seek new regions, led
on by their desire for gold and riches; but God has a higher
end in view. The sun attempts to burn up the earth, not
to produce plants, men, etc., but God uses the struggle
between it and them for the production of the latter things.
Praise and glory to Him!

(see Negley and Patrick, p. 345,
trans. W. T. Gilstrap).

This is a far more positive attitude toward history and
the possibilities of human life than More could have

The early German utopist, Johann Andreae, whose
Christianopolis (1619) appeared before the final version
of Campanella's work, resembled the Italian monk in
many ways. Andreae had been a Rosicrucian and his


esoteric interests mingle with an interest in the new
science. His utopia, while less scientifically sophis-
ticated than Campanella's or Bacon's New Atlantis,
possesses laboratories staffed with scientists (or perhaps
one should say natural magicians). This friend and
correspondent of Kepler also tried to wed the new
science to Christian beliefs and to design a system “to
lessen the burden of our mortality.”

Bacon's New Atlantis is not essentially different in
aim though its reputation and effectiveness have been
much greater because of the celebrity of Bacon's phil-
osophical and methodological writings. Like the others,
he wrote to show how a Christian society could be
improved by increased knowledge and a better tech-
nology. There is, however, a fideistic streak in Bacon's
thought which tended to separate the natural and
supernatural realms that blend so easily in The City
of the Sun
or later in Samuel Hartlib's Description of
the Famous Kingdom of Macaria
(1641), a work written
“to propagate religion and to endeavour the reforma-
tion of the whole world” through sound learning, well
taught and made fruitful in practice. Bacon's descrip-
tion of Salomon's House, the first research institute
dedicated to the advancement of learning by coopera-
tive scientific endeavor in the interest of beneficial
technological application, provided images of purpose
and organization which inspired men as diverse as the
Christian virtuosi who founded the Royal Society of
London (1662) and the rather less pious authors of the
great French encyclopedia edited by Denis Diderot
and Jean le Rond d'Alembert.

This interest in science and utopian writing was not
confined to the sober and successful only. Gerrard
Winstanley, the Digger, in The Law of Freedom (1651)
and other tracts, designed plans for the millennium
which included a place for science and secular learning.
He and other millenarians who surfaced in the turmoil
of mid-seventeenth-century England, were forerunners
of those nineteenth-century sectarians who thought,
like the Shakers, that they were living in a postmillen-
nial age. Christian sensibilities got utopian dress of a
more conventional sort in Robert Burton's short sketch,
“Democritis Junior to the Reader,” included in his
Anatomy of Melancholy (1620). This utopian work of
erudition and realism is interesting in its attempts to
make reforms plausible by citing authorities and
historical precedents for many of his suggested

James Harrington's Oceana (1656), another work of
great analytic realism, adopts a similar stance in its
polemics against divine-right monarchists, Thomas
Hobbes, and theocratic sectaries. Oceana, like other
utopian works by Harrington, is most concerned with
the problems of political stability, constitutional forms,
and the economic foundations of both. Harrington's
republicanism, his concern with agriculture, public
order, toleration and a religious establishment which
could not be fractious, and above all his earnest realism
combine to make him an attractive thinker despite the
dullness of his books.

Seventeenth-century utopias include two other types
requiring notice. The Histoire comique ou voyage dans
la lune
(1650) of Cyrano de Bergerac and Gabriel de
Foigny's Terra Australis incognita (1676) both describe
utopias in which a wide range of questions is pursued
in a rationalistic fashion. Such works look forward to
the philosophic tale of the Enlightenment. By the end
of the century a critique of Christianity in the form
of deism had found expression in numerous works of
which Simon Tysot de Patot's Voyages et aventures de
Jacques Massé
(1710) is perhaps the best known.

The succeeding age, the Enlightenment, saw the
development of most of its cherished beliefs in numer-
ous utopias. Deism continued to appear as the religion
of the truly wise. Utopias, which had always been
moral, even strenuously so, became happy places, and
it was clear that this happiness would be the product
of sensual gratification as it was for Diderot's Tahitians
in Supplément au voyage de Bougainville (The Supple-
ment to Bougainville's Voyage,
1772). Another change
which is noticeable in eighteenth-century utopias is the
greater equality of their inhabitants; some were
communist societies with complete equality as a
corollary. As a consequence the attitude toward labor
tends to change as well. Earlier works had required
labor as a discipline or moral good; many had relegated
manual labor to a specific class. Eighteenth-century
writers tended to see it as creative and not degrading.
In real life the power of states over their subjects was
increasing; a similar trend prevails in the utopias of
the time as well. Morelly's Code de la nature (1755)
offers a view of a static society which is highly regi-
mented in the interest of a communist egalitarianism.

The greatest and most ingenious of the utopians were
those who placed their utopias in the future and saw
them as the inevitable culmination of human progress.
The first to write a utopia set in the future was Louis
Sébastien Mercier, the author of An 2440 ou Rêve s'il
en fut jamais
(1770). The conceptual novelty belongs
to his contemporaries, Baron Anne Robert Jacques
Turgot, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Mar-
quis de Condorcet, Paul Henri Dietrich, Baron
d'Holbach, and Claude Adrien Helvétius, all of whom
elaborated theories of progress in which secular, dy-
namic social and psychological forces acted inevitably
to bring about progress in the arts, sciences, and morals.

Condorcet's L'esquisse d'un tableau historique des
progrès de l'esprit humain
(1794) contains as its last


section a sketch of the future state of mankind at last
living freely in a rational and natural social order which
continues to perfect itself. The static mold in which
earlier utopias had been cast was broken. So also was
the isolation of the utopian world for Condorcet's
utopia was to be worldwide although not realizable
at the same rate by all peoples. In England Richard
Price had reached a rather similar conclusion although
he still connected progress with the realization of a
divine providential plan—a plan in which the founding
of the United States and the French Revolution were,
as they were for Condorcet, significant steps into a
bright future.

The eighteenth century also produced a rather
different kind of utopist in the person of Robert
Wallace, a Scottish clergyman and the author of Vari-
ous Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence

(1761). Wallace believed that utopias could function
as analytic models helpful to the social theorist.

Utopianism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centu-
ries was supported not only by a belief in the inevita-
bility of progress, but also by the widely held doctrine
of the malleability or perfectibility of human nature
which implied that men's minds and characters could
be quickly molded by education to be vastly, if not
totally, different from what they were. Utopia could
be quickly built. Nineteenth-century utopists, Saint-
Simonians, Owenites, and other utopian socialists
tended to concentrate more than their predecessors on
the means of getting to utopia rather than on the
precise form the new society would have. For most,
education was the favored means. Robert Owen spoke
for many when he wrote in the Second Essay of The
New View of Society

Children are without exception passive and wonderfully
contrived compounds; which, by an accurate previous and
subsequent attention, founded on a correct knowledge of
the subject,
may be formed collectively to have any human
character. And although these compounds, like all the other
works of nature possess endless varieties, yet they partake
of that plastic quality, which by perseverance under judi-
cious management, may be ultimately moulded into the very
image of rational wishes and desires.

Education was, however, but one means to this goal.
Some socialists who looked back to the French Revo-
lution found inspiration in the revolutionary ideals and
practices of the Jacobins or of Gracchus Babeuf. For
them political action, even revolution through force,
was the road to utopia. For others, especially Charles
Fourier, the functioning example of a successful
utopian community or phalanstery would convince
mankind to adopt schemes so obviously good.

Nineteenth-century utopias display another charac
teristic generally lacking in earlier works: they are
much more optimistic about the possibilities of human
betterment. Utopists of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries dreamt of making men good and happy; their
nineteenth- and twentieth-century successors dreamt
of overcoming disease and death to say nothing of pov-
erty, disorder, ignorance, and crime. Science, technol-
ogy, and new social institutions to promote both could
lead to abundance while machines, relieving men of
toil, would allow all to develop mentally and spiritu-
ally. A somewhat greater interest in the control of
economic and political relationships tended to make
utopian and socialist identical for many in the nine-
teenth century. Because of this identity utopian ideas
became for the first time politically effective. By 1900
utopian thought had in this way affected the views of
many in Europe and North and South America. Indeed,
socialism in America in 1890 meant not Marxism but
the views of Edward Bellamy, whose utopia, Looking
(1888), became a best seller, provoked much
controversy, and was translated into many languages.
Throughout the last years of the nineteenth century,
Looking Backward and Theodor Hertzka's Freeland
(1891)—a more or less free-enterprise utopia located
in Africa as befitted a work coming during the
imperialist scramble for African territory—found not
only readers but enthusiastic supporters gathered in
clubs to promote the competing ideologies.

The twentieth century has produced more utopias
than had been written by 1900. Indeed, F. T. Russell
estimated in 1932 that “the eighteenth century pro-
duced as many as the sixteenth and seventeenth to-
gether, that the nineteenth almost tripled that number,
and that the twentieth [had then seen]... almost as
many as the nineteenth” (F. T. Russell, p. 307). Divided
about equally between the political “right” and “left”
these works have come mainly from the pens of
Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Americans outside the
South. One might surmise that maritime activity, reli-
gious belief, the freedom of the press, and a lively
political environment which allowed widespread
involvement in political action as well as economic
dynamism had something to do with both the geo-
graphic distribution of utopists and the rate of utopian
publications. Perhaps increasing alienation and politi-
cal frustration have been factors, since many recent
utopias have been thinly disguised political tracts.
While utopian writings have been concomitants of
social and ideological change, it is not clear that the
increase has been greater than the increase in the
reading public or the number of authors. It may be
that the urge to write utopias is a constant product
of social idealism, revulsion at inefficiency, waste, and
disorder, and a desire to do something about these evils


even though the required or envisioned remedies are
of a magnitude which engenders as much pessimism
and frustration as reforming zeal. Whatever the reason
for the increased number of utopias, it has not resulted
in literary greatness or substantial novelty.

H. G. Wells and Burrhus Frederic Skinner have been
the most interesting and creative of the utopists of this
century. Wells blended science fiction, prophecy, and
realistic social analysis to produce works more predic-
tive than utopian. He has had many imitators. Scientific
achievement has already outrun his fantasies and
verified Oscar Wilde's quip, “Progress is the realization
of utopia.” B. F. Skinner's Walden II (1947) is interest-
ing because of its stress on the techniques of behavior-
istic social engineering which for this pioneering
behaviorist psychologist open the way to utopia.

If twentieth-century utopists have not provided
much of interest, the same cannot be said of the anti-
utopians whose parodies of the genre have subjected
it to searching and destructive criticism in many
dystopias or anti-utopias. There have always been
anti-utopians—realists, cautious reformers, doubters of
man's ability to achieve rationality, questioners of the
possibility of an harmonious natural social order, and
most importantly scoffers who have maintained that
the achievement of utopists' dreams would be living
nightmares. They have been a small but respectable
company, including Aristophanes, Jonathan Swift, per-
haps Voltaire, Samuel Butler, and in the twentieth
century E. M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, Evgeni
Zamyatin, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. The
grim visions of a likely future, all too rational and
orderly, which these men have conjured up have made
dystopias rather than utopias of more interest since

Utopian writings have played many roles in Western
thought. Some belong to the literature of whimsy and
escape, others to science fiction, a considerable number
to satire, and many to that ill-defined genre, the philo-
sophic tale. Utopias have appeared in almost every
literary form—travels, letters, visions, dialogues,
novels, treatises, and in both prose and verse. They
have been the vehicles of seriously argued religious,
political, and philosophic views set out didactically in
a succinct and interesting manner and of propaganda.
Many have sought to move men to action, while others
have been visions for contemplation, dreams to think
on. They virtually defy orderly classification, though
some writers have tried to divide them into restrictive,
rigidly controlled societies, totalitarian in their social
policies, or expansive realms of freedom knowing only
a minimum of control. This division coincides roughly
with a division between those in which harmony,
statically conceived, is maintained by the repression
of spontaneity, and those in which perfection is seen
as a relative condition dependent upon progress and
individual freedom of choice and action. The static,
dynamic, repressive, and expansive characteristics may
owe something to the kind of men who have written
utopias and the role which these works played in their
own lives and perhaps also in those of their readers.

There have been few literary masterpieces among
the utopias, perhaps because it is difficult to write
interestingly of perfection, of states without the usual
conflicts which form the stuff of romance and tragedy.
Moreover, the characters in utopian works must be
types, exemplifying classes, so they often lack individ-
uality. Nevertheless, at their best, utopists have shared
in most of the great intellectual debates and their works
have often been not only stimulants to change but
prophetic of the future.


Bibliographical works. G. Negley, The Utopia Collection
of Duke University Library
(Durham, N.C., 1965), contains
over 500 titles. United States Library of Congress, Public
Affairs Information Service, Division of Bibliography,
Utopias (Washington, 1922, 1924, 1926, 1928).

Anthologies of utopian writings containing bibliographi-
cal information. H. C. Baldry, Ancient Utopias (Southamp-
ton, 1956). G. Boas and A. O. Lovejoy, Primitivism and
Related Ideas in Antiquity
(Baltimore, 1935), the standard
source for selections and references dealing with “the
Golden Age.” F. E. and F. P. Manuel, French Utopias: An
Anthology of Ideal Societies
(New York, 1966), mainly
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century selections. G. Negley
and J. M. Patrick, The Quest for Utopia: An Anthology of
Imaginary Societies
(New York, 1952), contains all or parts
of thirty-three utopias and lists the titles of over 100 other
utopias and dystopias as well as major secondary sources
to 1950.

General works bearing on utopian writing containing
bibliographical information. G. Atkinson, The Extraordinary
Voyage in French Literature before 1700
(New York, 1920);
idem, The Extraordinary Voyage in French Literature from
1700 to 1720
(Paris, 1922). W. Bentley, The Communication
of Utopian Thought: Its History, Forms, and Use
Francisco, 1955). M. Buber, Paths in Utopia (London, 1949).
N. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 2nd ed. (New York,
1961). G. D. H. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought: The
Forerunners 1779-1850
(London, 1955). R. C. Elliot, The
Shape of Utopia: Studies in a Literary Genre
(Chicago, 1970).
N. Eurich, Science in Utopia: A Mighty Design (Cambridge,
1967), is necessary reading for those interested in seven-
teenth-century utopias. Fédération International des
Instituts et Sociétés pour l'Étude de la Renaissance, Les
utopies à la renaissance: colloque international
(Liège, 1963);
twelve essays dealing with Nicholas of Cusa, Robert Burton,


Jerome Cardan, Thomas More, Kaspar Stiblin, Johann
Andreae, Rabelais, and others. S. R. Graubard, ed.,
Daedalus, 94, 2, The Proceedings of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences: Utopia
(Richmond, 1965), thirteen
papers on various topics concerning utopia. J. O. Hertzler,
The History of Utopian Thought (New York, 1923), dated
but still useful. G. Kateb, Utopia and Its Enemies (Glencoe,
1963). H. Kern, Staatsutopie und allgemeine Staatslehre: ein
Beitrag zur allgemeine Staatslehre unter besonderer Beruck-
sichtigung von Thomas Morus und H. G. Wells
1951?). H. Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the
(Bloomington, 1969). K. Mannheim, Ideologie
und Utopie
(Bonn, 1929), trans. as Ideology and Utopia
(London, 1936). A. E. Morgan, Nowhere and Somewhere:
How History Makes Utopias and How Utopias Make History

(Chapel Hill, 1946), argues that More's Utopia betrays
European knowledge of Peru prior to its conquest. M. H.
Nicolson, Voyages to the Moon (New York, 1948). F. T.
Russell Touring Utopia (New York, 1932). J. Servier, Histoire
de l'utopie
(St. Amand, 1967). J. Shklar, After Utopia
(Princeton, 1957). J. L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian
(London, 1951), has an excellent section on how
the eighteenth-century utopians conceived of a natural,
rational political order. S. L. Thrupp, Millennial Dreams
in Action
(The Hague, 1962). E. L. Tuveson, Millennium
and Utopia: A Study in the Background of the Idea of
2nd ed. (New York, 1964). C. Walsh, From Utopia
to Nightmare
(New York, 1962).

Studies of utopists and utopias. W. H. G. Armytage,
Heavens Below: Utopian Experiments in England 1560-1960
(London and Toronto, 1961). A. E. Bestor, Backwoods
Utopias: The Sectarian and Owenite Phases of Communi-
tarian Socialism in America 1663-1829
(Philadelphia, 1950),
is particularly good on early American communities. C.
Blitzer, An Immortal Commonwealth: The Political Thought
of James Harrington
(New Haven, 1960). E. R. Curtis, A
Season in Utopia: The Story of Brook Farm
(New York, 1961).
J. H. Hexter, More's Utopia: The Biography of an Idea
(Princeton, 1952). R. V. Hine, California's Utopian Com-
(San Marino, 1953). H. J. N. Horsburgh, “The
Relevance of the Utopian,” Ethics (1967), 127-38. R. Owen,
Utopianism and Education: Robert Owen and the Owenites,
ed. J. F. C. Harrison (New York, 1968). F. E. Manuel, The
Prophets of Paris
(Cambridge, 1962). Morelly, Code de la
Nature... avec une introduction et des notes par Gilbert
(Paris, 1950). C. Nordhoff, The Communist Societies
of the United States
(New York, 1875; 1961; 1965), a famous
eyewitness account of the American communities in 1874.
J. H. Noyes, History of American Socialisms (New York,
1870; 1961), by the leader of the Oneida Community. C.
Rihs, “Les Utopistes contre les lumières,” Studies on Voltaire
and the Eighteenth Century,
57 (1967), 1321-55. J. Shklar,
Men and Citizens: A Study of Rousseau's Social Theory
(Cambridge, 1969), a study of utopian elements in Rous-
seau's works. E. L. Surtz, S. J., The Praise of Wisdom: A
Commentary on the Religious and Moral Problems and
Backgrounds of St. Thomas More's Utopia
(Chicago, 1957).
L. G. Thompson, Ta t'ung shu: The One World Philosophy
of K'ang Yu Wei
(London, 1958). D. Winston, Iambulus,
A Literary Study in Greek Utopianism
(Ann Arbor, 1956).
P. Yershov, Science Fiction and Utopian Fantasy in Soviet
(New York, 1954).


[See also City; Millenarianism; Perfectibility; Progress;
8 dv4-19 dv4-20 dv4-21">Renaissance; Sin and Salvation; Socialism.]