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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Three Archetypes for the Clarification of Utopian Theorizing

← 69 | 70 → ← 70 | 71 → CHRISTOPHER YORKE

Three Archetypes for the Clarification of Utopian Theorizing


My aim in this essay is to offer a strategy for translating universal statements about Utopia into particular statements.1 I do this by drawing out the implicit, temporally embedded points of reference in such statements. Universal statements that I find troublesome are those of the form “utopia is x,” where “x” can be anything from “the receding horizon” to “the nation of the virtuous.” To such statements, I want to put the following questions: which utopias; in what sense; and when was that, is that, or will that be, the case for utopias? Through an exploration of these lines of questioning, I arrive at three archetypes for the clarification of utopian theorizing which can serve to provide the answers: namely, utopian historicism, utopian presentism, and utopian futurism.2 I argue that the employment of these archetypes temporally grounds statements about Utopia in the past, ← 71 | 72 → present, or future, and thus forces discussion of discrete particulars instead of abstract universals with no meaningful referents.

Given the imprecise manner in which the term “utopia” is often employed in discourse – whether academic or non-academic – confusion frequently, and rightly, ensues. There are various possible sources for this confusion. The first of these is the sheer volume and wide variety of sociopolitical schemes that have been regarded as utopian by utopian theorists, historians, or authors of fiction. Bibliographers of utopian literature (such as Lyman Tower Sargent) face the challenging task of sorting out those visions of other worlds that belong in the utopian canon from those that do not. However, utopian bibliographies generally err on the side of inclusiveness, and a sufficient range and number of utopias remain in the realm of discourse to make the practice of distinguishing a utopia from a non-utopia (or even a dystopia) challenging at best and baffling at worst. For example, should Dante’s Paradiso be considered a utopian work or not? There is no easy answer to this question, and thus there is ample room for dispute on this subject between active or prospective utopian bibliographers.

Another cause of imprecision and concern in utopian theory is definitional in nature. Ruth Levitas has pointed out the fact that most dictionaries give at least two competing definitions of “utopia,” such as the following from Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary: (1) “any imaginary state of ideal perfection,” and (2) “an impossibly ideal scheme, especially for social improvement” (quoted in Levitas 3). Thus, in the minds of many careless language-users, the “best imaginable” and “impossible” states are conflated, by definition, in the term “utopia.” The ultimate implication of such a conflation is that Utopia is impossible because the ideal is unachievable.

Defining Utopia instead as an expression of desire for the betterment of sociopolitical conditions, as Levitas does, steers us clear of the basic definitional conflation discussed above, but still leaves us with no expectations regarding the content, form, or function of utopian articulations (8). Levitas takes this open-endedness to be a virtue, as it serves to explain the wide ← 72 | 73 → variety of past and extant utopias, as well as utopias to come (181). However, her definition of Utopia as an expression of desire does not resolve the problematic ambiguity of how “utopia” as a term is generally employed in discourse, which does not typically accord with her definition. I believe that the ambiguity that concerns us here turns on implicit assumptions regarding, as Levitas puts it, the content, form, and function of utopias – in other words, the speaker’s views on the permissible scope of utopian visions, the manner in which these can be acceptably communicated to others, and the observable power these wield or lack in the sociopolitical sphere (Levitas 4–6). Such premises will shift over time, of course; but the appropriate way to address these changes is to take note of the discrete temporal frame to which each statement refers, rather than appeal to a universal and timeless human quality (such as desire) that accounts for diversity in the field but gives little explanatory ground for perceived consistency within it.

The Universal Voice in Utopian Theory

Due at least in part to their desire to resolve the ambiguity that dogs utopian discourse, theorists in the field of utopian studies often lapse into making universal statements about what they consider to be the essential features of utopias. For one theorist, utopias might be only those ideal societies that have as their focus laws and institutions; for another, utopias might be only those ideal societies that focus on individual freedom and self-realization. Unfortunately, the accumulation of opposing universal statements within the canon of utopian studies gives the appearance that subjectivism is the dominant theoretical framework in the field. J.C. Davis has commented on this seemingly muddled state of affairs in utopian theory, and has identified what he considers to be the main problem:

The difficulty that we are laboring under at the moment is that the adjective “utopian” is being used as a catch-all label for all forms of ideal society. Two problems can and do arise from this. The first is that contradictory statements are made about ← 73 | 74 → Utopia by authors who are examining different forms of ideal society. Thus we may be told that utopianism is an expression of great optimism, or of profound pessimism; that Utopia enables men to live naturally, or that it is designed to subdue and discipline human nature; that in Utopia the state withers away, or that it becomes more complex and comprehensive, even that state and society become coincident; that Utopia begins with ideal men, perfect human beings, or that it assumes that unrighteous and recalcitrant people will be its raw material (Utopia and the Ideal Society 17–18).

Subjectivism in utopian theory and contradictory statements about Utopia arising from conceptual confusion are the problems that Davis attempts to mitigate via the introduction of five distinct types of ideal society (see Table 1): Cockaygne, Arcadia, the Perfect Moral Commonwealth, the Millennium, and Utopia (“History of Utopia” 8–10). Utopia, for Davis, is simply that variety of ideal society that takes humanity and nature as flawed, and that possesses a perfected set of laws and institutions that optimally respond to those flaws, such that progress from that state is not possible (given that “progress” from a state of perfection is more accurately described as regression). Davis’s definition of Utopia is precision-cut, due to his understanding that “if there are rules to the game […] the vaguer or more elastic one makes one’s operative definitions, the more carefully one has to justify exclusions” (“History of Utopia” 6).

Table 1. Davis’s Five Types of Ideal Society.


← 74 | 75 → By breaking up the broad and undifferentiated concept of Utopia into five subtypes of ideal society, of which Utopia properly defined reappears as only one of these subtypes, Davis has narrowed the scope for potential contradiction, but not completely eliminated it. Theorists are still free to make temporally ungrounded universal statements about Utopia under Davis’s schema, such as the claim that “utopia is a nursery for tyrants” (read: for now and forever). It is just that the number of candidate utopias referred to by this type of universal statement is fewer, and thus the chance of the universal statement having a plausible but contradictory theoretical competitor is significantly reduced.

What is ultimately missing from Davis’s analysis, however, is a convention for reducing or eliminating the application of universal statements that evoke the concept of Utopia in a deceivingly atemporal manner. Utopia in the general sense really refers to nothing in particular, not even a quality shared by all the discrete utopias that together make up its frame of reference. To make a Wittgensteinian point: we cannot expect more precision from the generic concept Utopia than from the generic concept “game”; although there are meaningful generalizations that can be made within the scope of a particular game, such as “in the game of chess, all chess pieces start off in a set arrangement on the chessboard.” There are no corresponding universals (metalanguage) to capture the generic “game” concept; not even “all games are leisure activities” (because, as it happens, some games are played professionally). To quote Ludwig Wittgenstein: “the concept ‘game’ is a concept with blurred edges” (Wittgenstein §71). Thus, there is no individual cord that runs the entire length of the conceptual rope; nothing we can grip onto that is essential to “games,” any more than there is anything we can speak of that is essentially “utopian.”

What can be done to address this manifest conceptual opacity, I suggest, is to reform linguistic practice. We can limit our scope of reference to particulars, eschewing any “meta-utopian” universal statements in our discourses. I suggest that employing a temporal frame of reference when making statements about Utopia is a possible solution to this quandary. If one can determine what era, or what exact moment in time (if this is possible), a theorist is implicitly referencing in her or his statements, then more often than not a seemingly universal statement about utopias can be ← 75 | 76 → broken down into particular statements about this or that utopian vision, social movement, or publication.

My methodological recommendation is not meant to detract from Davis’s classificatory schema, for his distinctions and his analyses are in fact most helpful. I am not offering a competing theory, but rather a supplementary tool for theoretical disambiguation. Whereas Davis focuses on certain salient features of various visions of ideal societies – such as their relation to nature, their approach to social institutions, their implicit assumptions about human nature, their attitudes toward perfection, and the means (if any) they employ to bring about progress – my approach targets the universal statement itself as the culprit of conceptual confusion. Decoding a universal statement about Utopia into a particular statement, via identifying its implicit temporal frame of reference, narrows the scope of the statement until the author can be understood, in all probability, to mean only one thing. This can dramatically aid us in evaluating apparently universal statements about utopias, and in checking their consistency with other statements made on the subject. Now it falls to me to say more about such universal statements and their implicit, temporally particular frames of reference.

Decoding Universals into Temporal Particulars

David Plath’s dramatic first line from his book, Aware of Utopia, is a statement that implicitly utilizes the universal form. Provocatively, he proclaims that “utopia is a bore” (ix). Plath’s statement, however, does not express any clear fact. To say that “utopias are boring” is meaningful only insofar as “unicorns are charming” is: which is to say, it is a statement that lacks the usual criteria we might employ in verifying its truth or falsity. We might interpret Plath to be here passing judgment on the worth of utopian schemes tout court. Cases could be made for or against such a judgment, but what evidence would our arguments rest upon? We cannot access the testimony of utopians, either actual or fictional, without first determining ← 76 | 77 → Plath’s temporal frame of reference – his scope, as stated, is too broad to effectively attack or defend. We need therefore to analyze whether Plath’s statement refers to the utopias of the past, present, or future; and this in turn will reveal further underlying assumptions that he is making about that specific set of utopias.

Initially, we might reword Plath’s universal statement as “all utopias are boring” or “life in any utopia would be boring.” At the first level of objection, we should note that reasonable disagreement is possible. I could say that “utopia is exciting” (or “all utopias are exciting” or “life in any utopia would be exciting”); and this seems at least as plausible as Plath’s statement. Without reference to particular cases, there is no way to break this deadlock between the two conflicting universal statements. It seems that in order to make any headway, we have to infer an intended temporal target for Plath, which we can attempt by decoding it within the greater context of his article, or by using other background information at our disposal. Although this is usually not a serious problem with most authors, a great deal of interpretive legwork will nevertheless be required to properly contextualize the statement; and in that process opportunities for misunderstanding will necessarily present themselves. Eventually, we may surmise that Plath is commenting on the sociopolitical stagnancy of ancient depictions of perfectionist utopias; or perhaps we may take him to be claiming that the utopian writers of a certain era generally made poor novelists. At a certain point, we, as readers, will have to choose one of these paths for our take on Plath.

Even if we can agree on one of these interpretations of Plath, and make sense of his statement within the context of his own work, we may still have difficulty evaluating his point when it is contrasted with the work of other utopian theorists. For example, we may read in George Kateb that “the form of a modern utopia need not bear much resemblance to any of the utopias devised in the past by idealist or perfectionist thinkers” (15). Given this broader context, it becomes more important for us to be able to decisively determine which kind of utopias – modern or ancient – Plath regards as “boring.” If we interpret Plath as referring, even partially, to modern utopias, we need to formulate for him his most likely response to H.G. Wells’s assurance that “the Modern Utopia must be not static but ← 77 | 78 → kinetic, must shape not as a permanent state but as a hopeful stage, leading to a long ascent of stages” (4). If we take the statement “utopia is boring” to refer to modern utopias, then defenders of Plath will need to come up with an answer to the question, “how can a kinetic utopia consisting of an ascent of stages be boring?”

In light of these objections, we might charitably interpret Plath’s statement such that it reads: “the utopias of antiquity are a bore.” But that is still too broad. Many utopias, even ancient ones, remain distinct enough from political reality to capture the popular imagination: Plato’s work, most notably, remains fresh and vital material to modern readers. Let us, then, refashion Plath’s statement so that it is even more particular: “I, David Plath, presently believe that the utopias of antiquity, especially utopias x, y, and z, would have been boring to live in, for reasons i, ii, and iii”. Although such statements of opinion have but a weak role to play in utopian theorizing, we are still in a better position than had we rested with the initial statement “utopia is a bore.”

Here, I want to recall that my central concern is the great potential for misunderstanding and vacuity that unnecessarily universal statements generate: thus, I chose Plath’s opening line not as the worst offender in this regard but simply as a token of a problematic universal statement. To be fair, I admitted that Utopia is a paradoxical concept at the best of times, even when analyzed within a clearly delimited scope (as in Davis’s schema). By “paradoxical” I mean, for instance, that we are routinely asked by critics – in the tradition of Karl Popper – to accept that humankind’s best efforts to produce a state wherein perpetual peace could attain would inevitably result in the bloodiest of conflicts. This is precisely the kind of sharp ironic contrast that dominates much of utopian theory, and which tends to leave students of utopianism conceptually confused: how can attempts to create the best form of sociopolitical organization result in some of the worst? Of course, as we look back on the events of the twentieth century with a cringe, we may feel inclined to concede that, indeed, the violence required to bring about a utopia of peace creates only a surface paradox, caused by the lack of similitude between peaceful utopian ends and aggressive utopian means. However, we need to remember that the twentieth century is just one era among many, and that it may not have ← 78 | 79 → always been, and may not always be, necessarily the case that striving for perfection causes widespread suffering.

There are other contested sites within utopian theory, wherein paradoxes arise that are seemingly insoluble, or at least more deeply troublesome: namely, those wherein we have two antinomic universal statements, both intelligible, and both of which are part of the canon of utopian theory: i.e., “utopia is necessarily authoritarian” and “utopia is necessarily individualistic.” Of course, it is acceptable if two theorists happen to disagree on some theoretical point or another – this is typically the manner in which academic disciplines make progress. However, as it happens, utopian theory is thoroughly dominated by such disagreements, to the point that the idea of a coherent body of utopian theory seems to be a hopeless proposition unless we are willing to abandon the Law of Non-Contradiction. From Paul Turner’s introduction to his translation of Thomas More’s Utopia, I take the following Walt Whitman lines:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then … I contradict myself;

I am large … I contain multitudes. (12)

It is my position that we cannot afford to be quite so beatific about contradictions in the canon of utopian theory. Whereas from a literary standpoint, it is not crippling to have contradictions spring up within a given utopia, or between two or more utopias, from a theoretical standpoint consistency is a highly desirable quality.

Temporal Particulars: Three Archetypes for the Clarification of Utopian Theorizing

To iterate: what I am objecting to is the proliferation of unwarranted universal statements about the essential features of Utopia, a proliferation that serves to confuse the real issues at stake in discourses about Utopia. But ← 79 | 80 → how can we make ourselves theoretically clear? I argue that by employing three theoretical archetypes that operate specifically in terms of temporal particulars rather than universals, we can end up with fewer antinomic premises and conclusions in the body of utopian theory. The three archetypes I propose are: 1) utopian historicism, which asks the questions: what was the form of presentation used for utopias in the past; what was the substantial content of past utopias; and what socio-political function did utopian visions have in the past; 2) utopian presentism, which asks the questions: what is the form of presentation used for utopias in the present, what is the substantial content of current utopias, and what sociopolitical function do utopian visions presently fulfill; and 3) utopian futurism, which asks the questions: what will the form of presentation for utopias likely be in the future, what will the substantial content of future utopias likely be, and what sociopolitical function will utopian visions likely have in the future?1 Thus – with reference to Levitas – the form, content, and function of utopias are taken as central in this schema; although they are here divided in a manner according to their implicit or explicit temporal frames of reference.

These theoretical archetypes – utopian historicism, presentism, and futurism – can, I suggest, provide useful tools for analyzing and evaluating statements about utopian theory. When they are ignored, utopian theory as a whole can appear to be a mass of paradoxical or antinomic statements. For example, we may hear that “utopia is aspatial and atemporal” and also that “utopia is a spatiotemporal concept”; and that while it is often maintained that “utopia is unrealizable by definition,” it is also heard that “progress is the realization of utopias.” By employing these theoretical archetypes, I hope to show that many of these puzzles and seeming inconsistencies within utopian theory can be fruitfully resolved.

Allow me, then, to demonstrate a possible application for the archetypes, via the juxtaposition of some sample quotations, below (see Tables 2.0, 2.1, 2.2). Despite their obvious differences, what links these quotations is that they all employ a certain voice: namely, a universal or overly general tone, which I believe leads to conceptual confusion. Many of these generalizations can be broken down into temporal particulars and made more intelligible. Of course, it is hard to part with the universal voice: grand, ← 80 | 81 → sweeping aphorisms take better hold of the human imagination than the recitation of dry facts; and utopian theorists – to indulge in a relatively benign generalization of my own – no doubt often want to express themselves in a memorable fashion. However, I think that we must try to reign in the universal voice so that antinomies of the kind exhibited below arise less frequently in the discourse of utopian theory:

Table 2.0. Shklar vs. Wilde.

Judith Shklar:

Oscar Wilde:

Utopia is nowhere, not only geographically, but historically as well. It exists neither in the past or in the future. Indeed, its esthetic and intellectual tension arises precisely from the melancholy contrast between what is and what will be (164).

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of utopias (1089).

Here, we appear to have two competing metaphysical claims: Judith Shklar holds that Utopia does not exist anytime or anywhere; while Oscar Wilde holds that history is a series of spatio-temporally concrete manifestations of Utopia (in the only part of his passage I would identify as historicist). Although these passages contradict each other, both of the claims appear to have some sense to them, and we seemingly have little cause to favor one over the other. However, it is by noting the presentist voice employed by Shklar as she describes what motivates utopian longing in the here and now, disavowing any concerns with the past and future, that we can see that she is chiefly concerned with Utopia’s function in fomenting sociopolitical tensions in the present. And by noting the historicist voice used by Wilde as he describes the function utopias of the past have played in motivating sociopolitical development, we can begin to see that Wilde and Shklar are each just stating differing loci of interests rather than contesting each other’s metaphysical doctrines. Wilde’s presentist comment, in the first sentence of the passage, is actually in accord with Shklar’s remarks about the intellectual importance of Utopia.

Table 2.1. Golffing and Golffing vs. Dahrendorf.

Francis and Barbara Golffing:

Ralf Dahrendorf:

Each generation entertains its own image of the future, and that image is eminently historic. Even as the world has not stood still since Campanella, or Bacon, or William Morris wrote, so neither has that counterworld – no-world, no-place (Utopos) – stood still which forms its inevitable complement. […] The office of any utopia is to orient mankind: that is to say, turn men’s faces toward the sun. But the only sun that matters, as every true utopist knows, is the rising sun (39).

Utopias have but a nebulous past and no future; they are suddenly there, and there to stay, suspended in mid-time […]. It is hard to link, by rational argument or empirical analysis, the wide river of history – flowing more rapidly at some points, more slowly at others, but always moving – and the tranquil village pond of Utopia (104).

← 81 | 82 → The contradiction in this case is a more subtle one about the function of Utopia: Francis and Barbara Golffing seem to be claiming that the role of Utopia is to orient humanity to the future; while Ralf Dahrendorf holds that there is really no temporal link by which humankind could orient itself to a utopian future, as Utopia exists only outside of time, in “mid-time.” Again, on the surface both claims appear to be plausible, and there seems to be no way to break the deadlock between them. Yet, looking more closely, we can see that the Golffings remarks range across each archetype identified thus far. Their first sentence is an irreducible universal statement, the second a historicist comment, the third a presentist interpretation, and the fourth a futurist gloss. Dahrendorf, on the other hand, can be read mainly as a historicist, albeit a frustrated one, as he finds difficulty in connecting visions of Utopia to concrete historical events (it should be noted here that many other utopian historicists do not make this complaint). But failing to recognize the sociopolitical function of past utopias does not preclude such functions from obtaining with present utopias; having a “nebulous past and no future” is no conceptual obstacle to existing as an influence in the present, a point Dahrendorf might concede to the Golffings, despite the unfocused nature of their attack. There remains, however, an indissoluble antinomy between these utopian theorists – but then again, this is a symptom of a healthy academic ← 82 | 83 → climate. Centrally to my point here, it is important to note that utilizing the archetypes led us to the specific site of theoretical dissension: the Golffings second sentence which refers to the ever-changing unitary counter-world of Utopia, developing with (and perhaps against) the history of the world that informs it; versus Dahrendorf’s vision of multiple static utopias that remain unrelated to history. Let us move to a consideration of one final case:

Table 2.2. Walsh vs. Kateb.

Chad Walsh:

George Kateb:

Utopia is not very bacchanalian. Life is real and earnest; one must do his appointed task. Too much individualistic self-expression, sexually or otherwise, may elicit frowns or worse. There is, however, adequate opportunity for socially-approved channels of self-expression, such as begetting and conceiving eugenic children, inventing useful procedures, and composing odes to strengthen the social solidarity of the utopians (59).

There are rationalist utopias, hedonist utopias, ascetic-spiritual utopias, paradisal utopias, agrarian utopias, mechanized utopias, utopias of virtue, or craft, or play. More summarily, utopian theorists have ranged themselves on both sides in their answers to these basic questions: Shall Utopia be a place of abundance or austerity? Shall utopian politics be aristocratic or democratic? Is work or leisure the right mode of existence? Is the good life one in which public involvements or private pursuits absorb the main energies of the individual? (5).

Here, Chad Walsh seems to be arguing for some universal stipulations on the content of Utopia: namely, that utopias must be those visions of an ideal society that exhibit chastity and industriousness. These stipulations disregard the fact that the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophie dans le Boudoir is often considered to describe a utopia of sorts – as is, less problematically, Henry Neville’s Island of Pines – and in both of these works sexual promiscuity and self-indulgence feature heavily. Kateb, on the other hand, accepts the de facto plurality of utopias in the past and proceeds to catalogue some of the many types of utopian visions that he has encountered previously, among which are counted some that can be described as hedonistic. We can diffuse the apparent tension between ← 83 | 84 → these two utopian theorists by noting that Walsh is implicitly employing a historicist voice and dealing with the issue of utopian content in a partially normative, rather than wholly descriptive, manner; while Kateb is chiefly utilizing a historicist voice to discuss a wider scope of past utopias, and describing their contents in a purely descriptive way. Perhaps Walsh, by refraining from employing a universal tone, might have been more specific about the time in which the chaste utopias he is discussing dominated the utopian landscape; at which point, Kateb could question his claim to the upright characters of those utopias with more precision. It is unnecessary vagueness brought on by employing the universal that grinds this debate to an apparent deadlock.


While I am confident that the three archetypes I propose for the clarification of utopian theorizing might easily be applied to deflating a broader set of seeming antinomies, I am aware that they are neither exhaustive nor as ideally exact as could be hoped for. One could easily tease out mixed archetypes, or invent new archetypes altogether unconsidered here. The universal voice, so derided by myself, might even be employed to collect statements one considers to neatly capture the necessary and timeless features of Utopia. Of course, I would discourage the application of this latter theoretical filter whenever possible, because as I have stated previously I believe that this is where utopian theory goes wrong: when we imagine that there is a Platonic Form of Utopia somewhere in the heavens that exemplifies all the necessary features of utopias, to which we can then hold up each particular instance of Utopia for the purposes of comparison. I argue instead that the theoretical situation, as it stands, looks rather more like Wittgenstein’s family resemblance story. To recast the point: just as there is very little that is essential to the concept “game,” there is very little that is essential about the concept of Utopia. And, just as we can say that some games involve throwing dice, but not all, so too must we avoid making ← 84 | 85 → similar sweeping statements about utopias, and thus mistakenly overstepping our epistemic bounds:

It is as if someone were to say: “A game consists in moving objects about on a surface according to certain rules …”

and we replied: You seem to be thinking of board games, but there are others. You can make your definition correct by expressly restricting it to those games (Wittgenstein §3).

Works Cited

Alexander, Peter, and Roger Gill (eds). Utopias. London: Gerald Duckworth, 1984.

Dahrendorf, Ralf. “Out of Utopia: Toward a Reorientation of Sociological Analysis.” Utopia. Ed. Kateb. 103–26.

Davis, J.C. “The History of Utopia: the Chronology of Nowhere.” Utopias. Ed. Alexander and Gill. 1–17.

_____Utopia and the Ideal Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Golffing, Francis, and Barbara Golffing. “An Essay on Utopian Possibility.” Utopia. Ed. George Kateb. 29–39.

Kateb, George. Utopia and Its Enemies. New York: Schocken, 1976.

Kateb, George (ed.). Utopia. New York: Atherton, 1971.

Levitas, Ruth. The Concept of Utopia. London: Phillip Allan, 1990.

More, Thomas. Utopia. Intro. and trans. Paul Turner. London: Penguin, 1988.

Plath, David. “Foreword.” Aware of Utopia. Ed. David Plath. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1971. ix–xvi.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. British and American Utopian Literature, 1516–1985: An Annotated, Chronological Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1988.

Shklar, Judith. Political Thought and Political Thinkers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Walsh, Chad. From Utopia to Nightmare. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962.

Wells, H.G. A Modern Utopia. London: W. Collins Sons, 1926.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Soul of Man under Socialism.” Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Ed. J.B. Foreman. London: Collins, 1973. 1079–104.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1958. ← 85 | 86 →


1I would like to thank Dudley Knowles, Tony Milligan, and Masaki Ichinose for their input on earlier drafts of this essay.

2It is important to note that I herein use the terms “historicism”, “presentism”, and “futurism” in novel ways, in that they are divorced from their usual contexts of use. The term “historicism” is culled from its philosophical context in which history is considered to be reality’s sole defining factor. Similarly, I separate “presentism” from the metaphysical doctrine that what exists in the present is all that exists. For the purposes of this essay, I commit myself to nothing so extreme. My utopian historicism and presentism simply demarcate, respectively, that the past or the present is the chosen temporal frame of reference for a particular statement about Utopia. “Futurism,” likewise, is severed from its most famous context as a modernist artistic movement. Utopian futurism, as I here construe it, is concerned with the form, content, and function of eventual manifestations or visions of Utopia.