Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice
Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan
“Towards Justice to Come”: Derrida and Utopian Justice
← 32 | 33 → EUGENE O’BRIEN
The name “utopia” is often applied retroactively to various ideal states described before Thomas More’s work, most notably to that of Plato’s Republic and Augustine’s City of God (which in the fifth century enunciated the theocratic ideal that dominated visionary thinking in the middle ages). With the Renaissance, the idea of Utopia became worldlier, but the religious element in utopian thinking lingered, as in the politico-religious ideals of seventeenth-century English social philosophers and political experimenters. Among the famous pre-nineteenth-century utopian writings are François Rabelais’s description of the Abbey of Thélème in Gargantua (1532), Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun (1623), Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1627), and James Harrington’s Oceana (1656).
In the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others gave impetus to the belief that an ideal society – a Golden Age – had existed in the primitive days of European society before the development of civilization corrupted it. This faith in natural order and the innate goodness of humanity had a strong influence on the growth of visionary or utopian socialism. The end in view of these thinkers was usually an idealistic communism based on economic self-sufficiency or on the interaction of ideal communities. Henri de Saint-Simon, Étienne Cabet, Charles Fourier, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon in France and Robert Owen in England are typical examples. Actual experiments in utopian social living were tried in Europe and the United States, but for the most part the efforts were neither long-lived...
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