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The Concept of Utopia

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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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Acknowledgements to the First Edition xv

Extract

Acknowledgements to the First Edition Many people have contributed directly or indirectly to the writing of this book. I inherited my sense that the world does not have to be like this from my parents, Liz and Maurice Levitas. Together with the rest of a large and complex extended family, and friends of various red and green persuasions, they have sustained my commitment to the quest for utopia, and have constantly reminded me that there are many ways of venturing beyond the present or participating in the Great Refusal. The academic study of utopia is not well established in Britain. Over the years, my conviction that it is a proper area of investigation has been supported by several people, including Krishan Kumar and Lyman Tower Sargent. Keith Taylor, who convened a study group on utopian thought in the early 1980s, played a large part in encouraging me to ignore general scepticism. My immediate colleagues made possible a term’s study leave to begin work on the book. They have also been sufficiently tolerant to encourage me to teach a course on Ideology and Utopia. I am grateful both to them and to the students who have chosen to take the course, who have forced me to clarify my ideas and have shared their own. Rebecca Amiel and Andrew Chester loaned their Collected Works of Marx and Engels. Vincent Geoghegan, Robert Hunter and Keith Taylor made invaluable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript; without these I would undoubtedly end up...

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