Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction
Lyman Tower Sargent
There are many debates about utopia - What constitutes a utopia? Are utopias benign or dangerous? The idea of utopia has become commonplace in social and political thought, both negatively and positively. This Very Short Introduction explores utopianism, its history, and its role in modern debates.
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Questions for Thought and Discussion
- What does the word utopia mean to you?
- Why is the word utopia used to reject change?
- Is a better world possible? Why, or why not?
- Imagine your own vision of a good society. What are the three most important features? Why are they the most important features?
- Many dystopias are presented as projections into the future of things in the present that could become the basis of a worse future. What two features of the present do you think are the most likely to produce a bad society in the future?
- In chapters 4 and 5 it is argued that utopianism is important in most religions. What role does utopianism play in your religious beliefs or does it play one at all?
- In chapter 5 it is argued that while Eden, heaven, hell, and the millennium are fundamental aspects of both utopianism and Christianity, many Christians consider utopianism heretical while other Christians consider utopianism central to both Christian belief and practice. Discuss, considering the arguments for and against each position.
- Would you join an intentional community? Why, or why not?
- Many religions have formed intentional communities like ashrams in Hinduism and convents and monasteries in Buddhism and Christianity. What purposes do such communities serve?
- Are there utopias of anarchism, communism, conservatism, feminism, liberalism, and socialism? If so, how do they differ?
- Can there be such a thing as a Nazi utopia?
- Why do people move from one country to another? Are there utopian aspects to such moves?
- What are the arguments for utopia?
- What are the arguments against utopia?
- Do utopias differ from country to country? Why, or why not?
Other books by Lyman Tower Sargent
- Claeys, Gregory and Lyman Tower Sargent, eds. The Utopia Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1999)
- Sargisson, Lucy and Lyman Tower Sargent, Living in Utopia: New Zealand's Intentional Communities (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2004)
- Schaer, Roland; Gregory Claeys; and Lyman Tower Sargent, eds. Utopia: The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World (New York: The New York Public Library/Oxford University Press, 2000)
- Sargent, Lyman Tower. "Choosing Utopia: Utopianism as an Essential Element in Political Thought and Action", Utopia Method Vision: The Use Value of Social Dreaming Vol. 1 of Ralahine Utopian Studies. Ed. Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2007), 301-17
- Sargent, Lyman Tower. "Ideology and Utopia: Karl Mannheim and Paul Ricoeur." Journal of Political Ideologies 13.3 (Routledge, October 2008): 263-73
- Sargent, Lyman Tower. "In Defense of Utopia." Diogenes 53.1 (February 2006): 11-17
- Sargent, Lyman Tower. "The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited." Utopian Studies 5.1 (1994): 1-37
- Sargent, Lyman Tower. "Utopia." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas 6 vols. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004), 6: 2403-09
- Claeys, Gregory, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
- Davis, J.C. Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing 1516-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)
- Kumar, Krishan. Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987)
- Levitas, Ruth. The Concept of Utopia (Hemel Hempstead, Eng.: Philip Allan/Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990. Rpt. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010)
- Manuel, Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel. Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979)
- Moylan, Tom. Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (London: Methuen, 1986)
- Pitzer, Donald E., ed. America's Communal Utopias (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997)