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The Concept of Utopia

Student edition


Ruth Levitas

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris, and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia remains the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.


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Preface to the Second Edition ix Acknowledgements to the First Edition xv Introduction 1 chapter 1 Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition 11 chapter 2 Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism 41 chapter 3 Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim 69 chapter 4 Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future 97 chapter 5 The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris 123 chapter 6 An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche 151 chapter 7 A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies 179 chapter 8 Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia 207 Notes 231 Select Bibliography 253 Index 259 Ralahine Classics Utopia has been articulated and theorized for centuries. There is a matrix of commentary, critique, and celebration of utopian thought, writing, and practice that ranges from ancient Greece, into the European middle ages, throughout Asian and indigenous cultures, in Enlightenment thought and in Marxist and anarchist theory, and in the socio-political theories and movements (especially racial, gender, ethnic, sexual, and national lib- eration; and ecology) of the last two centuries. While thoughtful writing on utopia has long been a part of what Ernst Bloch called our critical cul- tural heritage, a distinct body of multi- and inter-disciplinary work across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences emerged from the 1950s and 1960s onward under the name of ‘utopian studies’. In the interest of bring- ing the best of this scholarship to a wider, and new, public, the editors of Ralahine...

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