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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice

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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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The League of Nations as a Utopian Project: The Labour Party Advisory Committee on International Questions and the Search for a New World Order

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← 304 | 305 → LUCIAN M. ASHWORTH

Why are there so few international utopias? The study and formulation of international utopias suffer from two prejudices. First, in the subject of International Relations, “utopian” has become such a pejorative term that writers are keen to avoid any association with it. Experts on the international like to see themselves as “practical people.” Second, the study of utopias themselves often concentrates on the local community, and here the international and global are often presented as evil anti-utopian forces from outside. The most recent manifestation of this latter tendency is the persistent use of “globalization” as a disparaging term for external influences. The global is presented as a threat, not an opportunity. Groups labeled as utopian are often those that work at local levels. Even Lyman Tower Sargent’s summation of utopianism, while it does not necessarily exclude global utopias, implicitly favors the local (see “Three Faces”). While it is true that the ideology of these groups might often be described as “acting locally, thinking globally,” this is not enough to make them global. Acting locally, thinking globally all too easily becomes “acting locally, dodging globally.” Global issues and alternatives become distant aspirations that are seen as, at best, secondary to the establishment of ideal relationships between people and groups within a narrow and circumscribed area. The perfect community soon resembles a gated community, wherein the ideal existence of the local few stands out against the vast mass of unreformed humanity.

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