Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
Edited By Florian Mussgnug and Matthew Reza
Struggling Against Utopia: Defoe, Wells, Atwood
← 188 | 189 → MATTHEW REZA
Utopia, as both a process and an envisioned result, is a concept that mediates between different notions of how society could be organized. However, the static literary example that Thomas More articulates in Utopia (1516)1 neither attempts to reflect all possible ideals and mores nor takes into account problems in the construction of the ‘good place’. Utopia is, as Levitas argues, ‘not just a dream to be enjoyed, but a vision to be pursued’,2 an expression of a ‘desire for a better way of being and living’,3 but in so doing, the competing interests of different social groups should be acknowledged because a harmonious process or model masks the inevitable conflicts which arise. Viewing utopia as an absolute or universal ideal is not therefore a valid approach, firstly because this conceals historically and culturally contingent attitudes towards the formation of communities. Secondly, and as a corollary, if societies compromise between competing interests, they will fall short of that ideal yardstick, as different interests will fail to create a satisfactory ideal for all. Indeed, as Jameson argues from the outset of his Archaeologies of the Future, ‘[u]topia has always been a political issue’.4 The reverse is also true: if some benefit from a dystopian5 society, it will fall short ← 189 | 190 → of any notion of an absolute worst-case scenario. Rather than discussing how utopian or dystopian literary realities are,6 it is therefore more useful to analyse the extent to which...
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