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The Concept of Utopia

Student edition


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.

«This book, central to the constitution of utopian studies as a field, argues for a structural pluralism in which, according to the social constructions of desire in specific historical periods, the three components of form, content, and function are combined in distinct and historically unique ways.» (Professor Fredric Jameson, Department of Comparative Literature, Duke University)
«Writing with clarity and grace, Levitas offers a sustained, intelligent, and critical examination of major definitions of utopia, addressing a range of recurring issues that trouble most attempts at definition. This is a strong and significant book, a far-ranging, insightful, and incisive exploration of the concept of utopia.» (Professor Peter Stillman, Political Science Department, Vassar College)
«Levitas, in her lucid and excellent book, supplies a state-of-the-art discussion of definitional debates in the field of utopian studies. ‘The Concept of Utopia’ will be of extraordinary value to anyone who teaches utopian thought.» (Dr Richard Gunn, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh)
«As Levitas acknowledges, the publication date of the first edition of her classic work was inauspicious. Momentous changes were to usher in a near-consensus that we had reached the ‘end of history’ and that capitalism was ‘the only game in town.’ What place could be left for utopia? Twenty years later, how different things look. A neo-liberal capitalist juggernaut is out of control, threatening ecological disaster and offering only global inequalities, dislocations, and conflicts. To the re-emergent claim that ‘another world is possible’ it can be added that another world is necessary. The republication of Levitas’s classic work of recovery, analysis, and advocacy of utopia is entirely auspicious.» (Professor Ted Benton, Department of Sociology, University of Essex)