Utopian Studies: A Guide
Literary Research 650
April 19, 2001
There is an unavoidable problem in the study of Utopian literature, a problem which stands in the way of most critical analysis; it is, simply, a problem of defining “utopia,” a term that over time has signified a literary type, a socio-economic system, and a political paradigm.In most recent times, “utopia”—which quite literally means “no place”—has come to be synonymous with idealism; and its use has become so prevalent in western society that it is a part of the culture’s vocabulary.Since Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516, or at least since the English translation of it (the original manuscript was in Latin) in 1551, writers have tried to build upon and improve the utopian genre, while also riding on the success of More’s hugely popular book.These same men and women who emulated Utopia contributed to the development of a new genre by adding their own twists to More’s take on the perfect society; this has allowed both the style and purpose of utopian literature to evolve throughout the centuries.For about 100 years after More utopian literature looked much the same:surrounding a fictional place home to a happy society, an efficient workforce and morally superior community.But the vision changed with revolution and war, church reform, and a new type of economy, and writers began to reflect the new society in their work.Utopia took on new shapes and new prefixes (e.g. dystopia, somatopia, heterotopia) each with its own identity and purpose.
Because of its long and complex history, scholars and critics writing on utopian literature usually begin with their own definition, a starting point from where to derive their analysis, presumably so as not to lose their audience before beginning an argument.Therefore, in creating a guide to utopian literature I am forced to come up with my own definition, or at least justify what I will and will not include, for the sake of my reader.
Obviously the kind of scholarly introduction I am setting out to create must be restricted in length, and can therefore not be all-inclusive; however, I believe focusing on only one period would be unfair, and could not adequately represent the various types and styles of utopian literature.I have therefore decided to present a selection of major utopian works—with critical information on the text and biographical information on the author—from the nearly 500 years of scholarship.I have basically included one major work from each century, starting with Sir Thomas More’s Utopia in the 16th century; the only exception being 17th century, which saw the largest number of significant utopian works published.In order to reflect this “peak” time in the history of utopian literature I’ve included the big three:Tomasso Campanella’s The City of the Sun, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, and James Harrington’s The Commonwealth of Oceana.Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas will represent utopian literature in the 18th century, as it is regarded by many critics to be a crucial work in the canon.However, there are also some who may consider its inclusion a stretch, since Johnson’s ideal community of Happy Valley appears for only part of the text; but it is still the most important example of that century.
In the 19th century a new trend developed in utopian literature.Edward Bellamy’s highly successful novel Looking Backward, 2000-1887 set the stage for the next 100 years of writings about utopia, introducing the world (though not intentionally) to political ramifications of the perfect state—a theme that would never again be separated from utopia.I chose Bellamy’s work for this very reason.An informed reader will wonder why I did not include Samuel Butler’s Erewhon instead of Looking Backwards, and the reason is simply that too many critics consider Erewhon a satire of utopian literature, not a true utopian text.
In the 20th century more than one work is notable for bringing utopian lit to a great height of popularity.But here we see the genre in a new form, actually dystopian or anti-utopian, for its portrayal of an un-ideal society.The turn is not only from contentment to fright, but also from non-fiction to fiction, since a characteristic of utopian literature is a believable (often didactic) narrator telling the reader about a real place.The reader is meant to understand that the story is true, that a perfect place does exist.This kind of rhetorical intention is reversed in dystopian and anti-utopian literature, where the reader is to fear what is presented, knowing that the violence is fictional, but should want to avoid such a fate by making changes in the present.
Some scholars include in a survey of utopian literature classical writers and philosophers.Plato’s Republic, for example, is seen by many as one of the first examples of utopia.While I give credit to classical writers for recording the first pseudo-utopian ideas of perfection, I do not believe these contributions should be included in the canon of utopian literature.Therefore, I will not discuss Plato here, but I will mention a few works on classical utopias that I think would aid a newcomer to the field of utopian study.
Similarly, I will only make brief mention of the science fiction genre, which has grown to literally unimaginable proportions.Science fiction, because it often focuses on the improvement of society (usually in the future), inherently resembles utopian literature, and therefore receives its share of critical attention.However, it is also too much steeped in, and too much influenced by, popular culture to be deserving of literary designation.Science fiction also tends to show up in the form of short stories, and we are concerned with longer works..
I have organized the accompanying bibliography by subject, keeping in mind date of composition in all cases.I’ve tried to present the most recent criticism in every category, but have also included crucial works that are over 30 years old (the height of utopian criticism was the 1960’s and 70’s).Sometimes I will mention secondary texts that date even earlier, but only when I think the work would be helpful.
Good starting points for the study of utopian literature are two secondary bibliographies.Paul Haschak’s Utopian/Dystopian Literature (1) is a recent (1994) collection of criticism on utopia and dystopia, organized by author.An older, but more thorough bibliography—because it names both primary and secondary texts—is British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975 (2), compiled by legendary utopian scholar Lyman Tower Sargent.
General reference works that are invaluable resources in a study of utopian literature include the long-awaited Dictionary of Literary Utopias (3), released in 2000 by Honore Press.The Encyclopedia of Utopian Literature (4) is equally valuable, if only for the longer citations.Perhaps the most comprehensive work to date is the mammoth Utopian Thought in the Western World (5), which manages to trace the development of utopianism from ancient times to the mid-twentieth century; it is also an extremely interesting read.
A few magazines and periodicals exist that are dedicated solely to one aspect or another of utopian literature, and would be of interest to a newcomer in the field.Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies (6) represents the only official publication put out by the Society based at the University of Toronto.The Society also distributes an informal newsletter, “Utopus Discovered” (7).Science-Fiction Studies (8) is a likely source for criticism on classic utopian literature, since many of the themes in major works are seen as visionary or futuristic by some readers.Finally, for news and notes on More’s Utopia, there is Moreana: Bullitin Thomas More (9), published in France.
Many more standard library periodicals regularly feature articles on utopian literature.Some of these include Studies in English Literature (10), English Literary History or ELH (11), Extrapolation (12), American Literary Realism (13), American Literature (14), and Studies in Twentieth Century Literature (15).These journals should be consulted for the most recent utopian scholarship.
The Internet is fast becoming a hot spot for research on utopian literature.Both of the major organizations, Society for Utopian Studies (16) and Utopian Studies Society (17), have websites where one can learn about recent scholarship in the field and about upcoming conferences and other events.The more informal Utopia (19) and Utopia on the Internet (20) provide visitors with links to utopia-related sites.Some of Penn State’s Utopian Collection (18), located within the University’s Rare Book Room, can be perused online; it is perhaps the most complete collection of original utopian manuscripts in the country, and is openly available to students and scholars who visit the campus.
There have been in the past many anthologies of utopian literature to choose from, but Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent have made things much easier in the last couple of years with The Utopia Reader (21), a work that contains full texts and excerpts of every major work of utopian literature ever written, plus some lesser known, but equally respected, short works.The Quest for Utopia (22) and Utopias: Social Ideals and Communal Experiments (23) are also good sources, notable for the long introductions to the works they feature.Berneri’s Journey Through Utopia (24) is a standard collection of short works.For years many so-called anthologies included three or four works of utopian literature, from among More’s Utopia, Campanella’s The City of The Sun, Bacon’s New Atlantis, and Harrington’s Commonwealth of Oceana.Such is the case with Famous Utopias (25) and Ideal Commonwealths (26), two publications that helped introduce utopian literature to an American audience in the early part of the last century.
After becoming familiar with the primary works in utopian literature one should consult a literary introduction to the genre.A good place to start would be a collection of critical essays such as Utopian Studies I (27), representing papers delivered at the 1984 Conference of the Society for Utopian Studies; or George Kateb’s Utopia (28).Both of these works contain articles by leading utopian scholars and represent some of the major schools of criticism in the genre.Two texts that are helpful in showing main concepts and ideas in utopian literature are Ideology and Utopia (30) and Utopias and Utopian Thought (31).Robert C. Elliott’s The Shape of Utopia (29) looks at characteristics of the genre, with an emphasis on aesthetics.
Another kind of utopian introduction to be aware of are those based in theory.This is important because of the political and philosophical implications of utopian literature—that is, what it proposes or intends to do.Krishan Kumar’s Utopianism (32) is one of the better texts at condensing the main ideas that drive utopian thought.Close behind it, however, is Ruth Levitas’ The Concept of Utopia (33), which differs only slightly in that it favors the political.Though somewhat dated, Martin Plattel’s Utopian and Critical Thinking (34) is probably the most thorough look at utopian theory as it relates to the literature.Coming from an entirely different angle is The Story of Utopias (35), which applies popular utopian literature to a socio-political history of the world since the 16th century.
A text that is a more general overview of utopian literature and combines a discussion of utopian theory and literature is Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (36).This 500-page work does an excellent job of showing how utopia evolved into different forms in the late 19th early 20th century, but begins with More’s inception of the idea in 1516, and thus is something of a comprehensive history.For a history of utopianism that has withstood the test of time Joyce O. Hertzler’s The History of Utopian Thought (37) is still the standard work—mostly for her concluding statements which are key to understanding “utopia.”Finally, Arthur E. Morgan’s Nowhere Was Somewhere (38), though also a dated text, is still considered authoritative by critics for its accurate and thorough narrative on the development of the utopian tradition.
Only two works on utopias of the classical world should be sufficient for anyone studying modern utopian literature, if only to get an idea of what is out there.The somewhat recent Cities of the Gods (39) is a fine work on the writers and philosophers who dabbled in utopia.Utopias of the Classical World (40) is a reliable source material for ancient utopian texts.
A study of the canon of utopian literature must begin with More’s Utopia (41), the book that set the precedent of the genre.Norton’s critical edition is the best version out there; and like the other classic titles in that series it contains copious notes, and plenty of appended material including summaries of the major critics’ positions.For another look at criticism Interpreting Thomas More’s Utopia (42) is a gathering of essays by major critics.George Logan’s The Meaning of Utopia (43) spends a third of its length establishing a context (i.e. a condensed history of the 16th through 18th centuries), then proceeds to a discussion of utopian literature.This method is quite effective in showing how the genre developed because of what was happening in Europe and around the world.Edward Sartz’s dual works The Praise of Wisdom (44) and The Praise of Pleasure (45), released in the same year, focus on different aspects of Utopia: the former is a moral criticism of the utopian lifestyle More advocates; the latter deals with the feasibility of More’s practical ideas.For a biography of More the standard is R. W. Chambers’ Thomas More (47), though More’s Utopia: The Biography of an Idea (46) is also an excellent work.
More’s political philosophies are the subject of Thomas More on Statesmanship (48), a book that considers More’s use of dialogue to be quite important.Similarly, John Freeman’s article “Discourse in More’s Utopia: Alibi/Pretext/Postscript” (50) finds significance in language, and Freeman suggests that small shifts in the text of Utopia reveal different stages of the work’s composition.Some other broad looks at Utopia include Mardelle and Robert Fortier’s The Utopian Thought of St. Thomas More and its Development in Literature (49).Peter New’s Fiction and Purpose in Utopia, Rasselas, The Mill on the Floss, and Women in Love (51) is notable for its dual essays on More entitled, “Form as Model” and “Form and Discipline,” which treat the subject of the author’s intention from two opposing viewpoints.
The next long utopian work to gain widespread attention after More, and the first in the 17th century, was Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun (52).John M. Headley has taken a recent look at Campanella’s philosophies, influences, and the effect his writings had on the end of the Enlightenment, in Tommaso Campanella and the Transformation of the World (53).Bernardino Bonansea comes to a like conclusion in The Theory of Knowledge of Tommaso Campanella (55), but looks more closely at the period in which Campanella wrote in Tommaso Campanella: Renaissance Pioneer of Modern Thought (56).E. G. Gardner isolates Campanella’s career as a poet in the article “Tommaso Campanella and His Poetry” (54).Two useful biographies of Campanella are Luigi Firpo’s Tommaso Campanella: The Man and His Time (57), and the bibliography/biography hybrid Tommaso Campanella in America: A Critical Bibliography and a Profile (58).
Francis Bacon, though known more for his contributions to philosophy and the sciences, wrote a highly influential utopian work—his only piece of fiction, The New Atlantis.The Oxford Author Series Critical Edition Francis Bacon (59) includes this short work, and is perhaps the most reliable primary text for students.Bacon scholar Denise Albanese investigates what makes Atlantis such an interesting addition to the canon of utopian literature in “The New Atlantis and the Uses of Utopia,” an essay in her book New Science, New World (60).Bacon’s talent as a visionary is examined in Anthony F. C. Wallace’s The Social Context of Innovation (61).And James Stephens is interested in Bacon’s writing style in The New Altantis in Francis Bacon and the Style of Science (62).For a complete look at the life of Bacon through his writings, see W. A. Sessions’ Francis Bacon Revisited (63), part of the Twayne English Authors Series.
The third important work of utopian literature in the 17th century is Harrington’s The Commonwealth of Oceana (64).A compendium of basic criticism on Oceana can be found in Luc Borot’s James Harrington and the Notion of Commonwealth (65).Two other critical analyses, Sovereignty and the Sword (66) and Republicanism, Liberty and Commercial Society, 1649-1776 (67), focus on the significance of Harrington’s work.Arihiro Fukuda in Sovereignty compares Oceana with Hobbes’ Leviathan, suggesting the great philosophical influence of the lesser known Harrington; David Wotton, on the other hand, shows in Republicanism the effect Harrington had on the Restoration.In the area of biography, H. F. Russell Smith’s Harrington and His Oceana (68) is the best on the subject.But another, Charles Blitzer’s An Immortal Commonwealth (69), focuses more on Harrington’s political ideologies.
Many general texts on utopian literature of the late Renaissance exist that would be helpful to anyone studying the genre.A new sourcebook that is available is Restoration and Augustan British Utopias (70), edited by Gregory Claeys.Marina Leslie shows how historical facts have been clouded by utopian literature in Renaissance Utopias and the Problem of History (71).Miriam Eliav-Feldon’s groundbreaking work from the 1980’s, Realistic Utopias: The Ideal Imaginary Societies of the Renaissance 1516-1630 (72), looks at the presentation of practical reality in the earliest utopian literature.And a nice discussion of similarities between The City of the Sun and New Atlantis can be found in an essay by Timothy J. Reiss in Yale French Studies entitled “Structure and Mind in Two Seventeenth Century Utopias: Campanella and Bacon” (73).
When Samuel Johnson wrote Rasselas (74), or the Prince of Abissinia, in 1759, it was an unexpected work both for the author and for the canon of utopian literature.This is the subject of the third chapter of Nelson Hilton’s book Lexis Complexes: Literary Interventions (75), which he calls “Restless Wrestling: Johnson’s Rasselas.”Hilton accurately depicts the waves of reaction that Rasselas sent through the literary community.Samuel Johnson: Literature, Religion, and English Cultural Politics from the Restoration to Romanticism (76) discusses this cultural community and how Rasselas and Dr. Johnson fit into its larger picture.Though there is quite a bit of extant criticism on Rasselas, Edward Tomarken attempts to pull it all together in Johnson, Rasselas, and the Choice of Criticism (77), which tracks the history of criticism on Johnson’s utopian work.For a non-Boswellian biography of Johnson’s life, I suggest Lawrence Lipking’s Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author (78), which focuses more on Johnson’s works rather than his person.For the regular computer user, George Landrow’s Samuel Johnson Biography Page (79) might be preferred over a text version.
The 19th century is filled with utopian works, but one attracts more attention than any other:Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (80) is a story literally ahead of its time, and would influence many later writers including those in science fiction.One of the better critical analyses is Daphne Patai’s collection of essays, Looking Backward, 1988-1888 (81); most of the essays try to show Bellamy as a cultural critic rather than a visionary.Arthur E. Morgan chooses to look at Bellamy’s religious background (his father was a Baptist minister and mother a devout Christian) in The Philosophy of Edward Bellamy (82).An interesting online article on Bellamy is one entitled “Iceberg: Utopia, Dystopia, and Myopia” (83) by Jorn Munkner.Munkner expands on a common utopian metaphor, the iceberg, and how it relates to the structure of Looking Backward.
For biographies of Bellamy which deal specifically with Looking Backward, the best source is Sylvia Bowman’s Edward Bellamy Abroad: An American Prophet’s Influence (84), a comprehensive look at the effect his book had on the countries in which it was published—from controversy in Italy to the formation of Bellamian colonies in the United States.Two older, but reliable, biographical articles are of note:Albert William Levi’s “Edward Bellamy: Utopian” (85) and Robert L. Shurter’s “The Literary Work of Edward Bellamy” (86); both help set a historical context for Looking Backward.To find other secondary sources on Bellamy’s work I recommend Nancy Snell Griffith’s Edward Bellamy: A Bibliography (87).
Some general works on Utopian literature in the 1800’s include Kenneth Roemer’s article “Sex Roles, Utopia, and Change: The Family in Late Nineteenth Century Utopian Literature” (89), and Thomas Peyser’s somewhat recent text, Utopia and Cosmopolis (88), a work that tries to show how conditions in 19th century society were just right for the conception of a work like Looking Backward.
In the twentieth century there is a turn to the anti-utopian novel, which arguably begins with Zamyatin’s We (90).(Some critics also attach the label “dystopian” to Zamyatin’s work.)Finding out what the new form is—that is, defining this new utopia—is the subject of much criticism after 1925.A sampling might include the article “Zamyatin’s We and the Idea of the Dystopic” (91) or Brave New World, 1984, and We: An Essay on Anti-Utopia (93).Dealing with all utopian and dystopian literature, and the issue of definition, in the twentieth century is the collection of essays, No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction (96), assembled by Eric S. Rabkin, Martin Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander.A fine article on the introduction of realism in to the genre by We, is Alexandra Aldridge’s “Myths of Origin and Destiny in Utopian Literature: Zamiatin’s We” (92).For a recent biography on the author, Robert Russell’s Evgeny Zamyatin (93) is suitable.Another less-likely source is Alice Stroup’s “French Utopian Thought: The Culture of Criticism” (95), which highlights recent trends—both in Europe and the U.S.—in utopian criticism.
There are some major issues and recurring themes in utopian literature that need to be looked at in any study of the genre.For instance, humanism is inseparable from the utopian idea, especially in its earliest forms.David Weil Baker has recently put out a book length study on the utopia/humanism connection called Divulging Utopia (97).Baker follows humanistic trends and shows how they relate to the rise and evolution of utopian literature.A study similar to Baker’s is Erasmus, Utopia, and the Jesuits (98), different only in that it is a collection of essays by leading scholars.An article by Arthur F. Kenney, “Rhetoric as Poetic: Humanistic Fiction in Renaissance” (99) is a further continuation of this study.
Looking at some topical studies in utopian literature can help in the understanding of the genre.Patterns of Order and Utopia (100) combines a study of classical utopias with a discussion of textual organization and structure.Franco Borsi’s Architecture and Utopia (101) is a mostly visual representation of the perfect city and other utopian concepts of space.A work that looks solely at scientific ideas in utopian lit is Nell Eurich’s Science in Utopia (102).
The new gender trend in utopian studies could constitute its own guide, but a few of the works here are representative of what exists on the subject.Chris Ferns’ Narrating Utopia (103) and Darby Lewes’ Dream Revisionaries (104) discuss major feminist themes in utopian literature.Utopian and Science Fiction by Women (105), Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative (106), and Women and Utopia (109) explore some of the same themes, though through essays by major critics including Sargent, Claeys, and Roemer.Frances Bartkowski’s Feminist Utopias (107) deals specifically with gender relations and community in utopian literature.And Nan Bowman Albinski is concerned with feminist politics in Women’s Utopias in British and American Fiction (108).
America plays an important role in utopian literature, because of its one-time status as a colony and the fact that it is the “New World.”Jeffrey Knapp handles this issue in An Empire Nowhere (110), talking about how early relations with America contributed to the development of utopian literature.Further, Jean Pfaelzer’s The Utopian Novel in America, 1886-1896 (111) and Kenneth Roemer’s The Obsolete Necessity (112) are two sources with some lesser known short utopian works that prominently feature, or take place in, America.
When that which we strive for in our lives conforms to the utopian ideal we are hoping for a perfect state, a goal that inherently has political implications, such as those attached to Marxists and communists.Looking at works like Keith Taylor’s The Political Ideas of the Utopian Socialists (114) or Barbara Goodwin and Taylor’s The Politics of Utopia (115) reveal just how closely connected political systems are with utopian ideals.Robert Noah looks at social systems instead of political regimes in The World That Could Be (117).Man’s motivation for attainment of utopia is the subject of David Bleich’s Utopia: The Psychology of a Cultural Fantasy (113), and the concept of the “utopian hero” is the subject of an essay by utopian scholar Arthur O. Lewis in America as Utopia (116).
Because, as we have seen, utopia is rooted in theory, it will not always work.In fact, more is written about the failure and impossibility of utopia than of its success, probably because the ideal has never been reached.Accountability of the individual is one reason utopia cannot work, according to George Kateb in Utopia and Its Enemies (119); and Thomas Molnar introduces a similar argument in Utopia: The Perennial Heresy (120).Alistair Fox’s Utopia: An Elusive Vision (118) looks at the negative effect this inevitable failing has on society.All these works seem to culminate in From Utopia to Nightmare (121) which applies failure of social and political systems to examples of utopian literature.
Today we are left picking up the pieces of the cold war, and are not too concerned with fictional Renaissance utopias.Rajani Kannepalli Kanth helps us reassess the utopian situation in the 20th century in Breaking With the Enlightenment (122).Peter Edgerly Firchow provides complete closure on the utopian genre in The End of Utopia (123) by asserting that the only kind of utopia we will ever know is of the anti-utopian variety.Ernest Tuveson’s Millennium and Utopia (124) reconciles the close of the twentieth century from a naturalist’s point of view.But R. Buckminster Fuller gets the final word in his Utopia or Oblivion (125), when he assesses utopia’s impact on our post-modern lives; Buckminster’s work is unexpectedly optimistic, though it is addressing a culture that has failed to create a perfect society—or even much improve its own.
Utopian Literature: A Guide
Literary Research 650
April 19, 2001
1.Haschak, Paul G.Utopian/Dystopian Literature: A Bibliography of Literary Criticism.Metchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1994.
2.Sargent, Lyman Tower.British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975: An Annotated Bibliography.Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.
General Reference Works
3.Fortunati, Vita and Raymond Trousson.Dictionary of Literary Utopias.Paris: Honore, 2000.
4.Snodgrass, Mary Ellen.Encyclopedia of Utopian Literature.Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1995.
5.Manuel, Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel.Utopian Thought in the Western World.Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979.
Periodicals on Utopian Literature
6.Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies.1990 - .2 times/year.
7.Utopus Discovered: Newsletter of the Society for Utopian Studies.www.coloradocollege.edu/Dept/EN/utopus
8.Science-Fiction Studies.1973 - .3 times/year.
9.Moreana: Bullitin Thomas More.1963 - .3 times/year.
Periodicals that include articles on Utopian Literature
10.Studies in English Literature.1919 - .3 times/year.
11.ELH.1934 - .Quarterly.
12.Extrapolation.1959 - .Quarterly.
13.American Literary Realism.1967 - .3 times/year.
14.American Literature.1929 - .Quarterly.
15.Studies in Twentieth Century Literature.1976 - .2 times/year.
16.Society for Utopian Studies.www.utoronto.ca/utopia
17.Utopian Studies Society.www.utopianstudies.org
18.Rare Book Room, Penn State (Utopian Collection).http://www.libraries.psu.edu/crsweb/speccol/utopia.htm
20.Utopia on the Internet.http://users.erols.com/jonwill/utopialist.htm
21.Claeys, Gregory and Lyman Tower Sargent, eds.The Utopia Reader.New York:New York
22.Negley, Glenn and J. Max Patrick, eds.The Quest for Utopia.Syracuse: Syracuse UP,
23.Richter, Peyton, ed.Utopias: Social Ideals and Communal Experiments.Boston: Holbrook,
24.Berneri, Marie Louise, ed.Journey Through Utopia.Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries P,
25.Andrews, Charles M., ed.Famous Utopias.New York: Tudor, 1937.
26.Morley, Henry, ed.Ideal Commonwealths.New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1901.
27.Beauchamp, Gorman, ed.Utopian Studies 1.Lanham: UP of America, 1987.
28.Kateb, George, ed.Utopia.New York: Atherton, 1971.
29.Elliott, Robert C.The Shape of Utopia.Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1970.
30.Mannheim, Karl.Ideology and Utopia.New York: Harcourt, 1968.
31.Manuel, Frank E., ed.Utopias and Utopian Thought.Boston: Houghton, 1965.
32.Kumar, Krishan.Utopianism.Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991.
33.Levitas, Ruth.The Concept of Utopia.Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1990.
34.Plattel, Martin G. Utopian and Critical Thinking.Duquesne Studies Philosophical Series 29.
Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1972.
35.Mumford, Lewis.The Story of Utopias.New York: Viking, 1962.
36.Kumar, Krishan.Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times.Oxford: Blackwell, 1987.
37.Hertzler, Joyce O.The History of Utopian Thought.New York: Cooper Square, 1965.
38.Morgan, Arthur E.Nowhere Was Somewhere.Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1946.
39.Dawson, Doyne.Cities of the Gods.New York: Oxford UP, 1992.
40.Ferguson, John.Utopias of the Classical World.Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975.
16th - 17th CENTURY
Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516)
41.More, Sir Thomas. Utopia.A Norton Critical Edition.Second Edition.Trans. and Ed. Robert
M. Adams.New York: Norton, 1992.
42.Olin, John C., ed.Interpreting Thomas More’s Utopia.New York: Fordham UP, 1989.
43.Logan, George M.The Meaning of More’s Utopia.Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983.
44.Sartz, Edward L., S.J.The Praise of Wisdom: A Commentary on the Religious and Moral
Problems and Backgrounds of St. Thomas More’s Utopia.Chicago: Loyola UP, 1957.
45.Sartz, Edward, S.J.The Praise of Pleasure: Philosophy, Education, and Communism in
More’s Utopia.Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1957.
46.Hexter, J. H.More’s Utopia: The Biography of an Idea.Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1976.
47.Chambers, R. W.Thomas More.London: J. Cape, 1957.
48.Wegemer, Gerard.Thomas More on Statesmanship.Washington, D.C.: Catholic UP, 1996.
49.Fortier, Mardelle L. and Robert F. Fortier.The Utopian Thought of St. Thomas More and its
Development in Literature.Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen, 1992.
50.Freeman, John.“Discourse in More’s Utopia: Alibi/Pretext/Postscript.”ELH 59.2 (1992):
51.New, Peter.Fiction and Purpose in Utopia, Rasselas, The Mill on the Floss, and Women in
Love.New York: St. Martin’s, 1985.
Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun (1602)
52.Campanella, Tommaso.The City of the Sun: A Poetical Dialogue.Trans. Daniel J. Donno.
Berkeley: U of California P, 1981.
53.Headley, John M.Tommaso Campanella and the Transformation of the World.Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1997.
54.Gardner, E. G.“Tommaso Campanella and His Poetry.”Studies in European Literature.
Taylorian Lecture Series.Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries P, 1969.
By Dan Kervick
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the pace of automation and the impact of technology on the future of work. Many purport to see the dawning of a new robot future in which many, perhaps most, of today’s jobs will be performed by machines. This line of thought tends to spin off into one of two alternative directions, one bright and one dark: The brighter view is a kind of techno-utopianism that looks forward to a future in which formal human employment has become less important to our society, and in which we will all enjoy lives of fulsome leisure based on an equitable sharing of our robot-manufactured abundance. The darker outlook is a species of techno-dystopianism driven by fear of mass unemployment and the growth of a burgeoning and struggling underclass of unemployed former workers, displaced and excluded from the economic mainstream of their societies, and surviving on whatever handouts and pittances the economy’s owners are willing to give them to keep them docile.
Both of these contrasting visions of our robot future, however, share the idea that automation will lead to an overall reduction of formal human employment. While I suppose both futures are possible, we might ask why this shared vision has become so popular. After all, modern economies in the technologically developed world have seen tremendous growth in both wealth and productivity in recent centuries, but have generally managed to create many new forms of employment to replace the older forms as they were reduced, or as they disappeared altogether. Why shouldn’t this process continue indefinitely?
In the past, new jobs have sometimes been created by technological innovation when human beings were needed to superintend the mechanized non-human work that the new technologies made possible. Somebody has to run and supervise the new machines, after all, and organize the operations that employ them. When technological innovation enables us to make some product more efficiently, one thing that can happen is that we then want a lot more of that good, as what was once a luxury becomes a staple of everyday life. So even though fewer people are required for the production of each unit of the good, we end up producing many more units and thus employing just as many people in its production. We work as much as before, but are richer and more productive.
But some now reason that the present era is different; that modern humanity has already picked most of the low-hanging fruit of industrial and technological development; and that we are at long last running out of new, high value things to do. We are also running out of the most easily obtainable industrial inputs and energy resources that we need in order to grow, and what is left can only be extracted from the Earth at a higher cost than previously. Future development, then, might increasingly consist in the more efficient production of the economic goods we already enjoy, rather than in the production of new goods. And since we already possess great affluence, we may find less demand for the production of more of those goods than was the case in the past. Some argue that we should learn to say “enough!” and embrace this new world of slower growth and declining overall employment, by taking an increasing share of our future productivity gains in the form of leisure.
I’m in no position to predict our long term future. But I do think we should take note of an important phenomenon that is often left out of these discussions, and a source of job creation that might lead to the addition of many more jobs than just those on which the heralds of the new leisure are reckoning.
Let us first imagine some surge in technological innovation has the initial effect the utopians imagine, and that our society suddenly finds itself with much more leisure than it had before, leisure which is spread around in a roughly even way. Suppose employed people are working, on average, only 20 or 30 hours a week, rather than their previously wonted 40 or 50. What do people do with their new leisure time? Well let’s imagine a single small community that begins to dedicate more time to the performing arts and their appreciation. One half of the community begins reading and performing plays, and the other half begins playing a lot of music. The people who perform the plays enjoy the whole process of preparing, rehearsing and performing them, and the other half of the community enjoys watching the plays performed by the first group. Similarly, the people who perform the music enjoy everything about composing, rehearsing and performing music, while the others enjoy listening to that music. We can see a certain kind of exchange at work here; but so far it is informal, with the new benefits gratuitously provided and unencumbered by precise requirements or enforced contracts. At this point, neither performing plays nor performing music is anybody’s job. Nor is anybody a market consumer of the plays or music.
Suppose also that there is a second community that is just like the first community: one half puts on plays for the other half, and that latter half makes music for the first half. But now suppose the people in both communities notice something: the plays produced by the players in the first community are generally better than those produced by the players in the second community; and the music produced by the musicians in the second community is generally better than the music produced by the musicians in the first community. As a result the people in both communities begin to gravitate toward the first group of players for their play-going, and they gravitate toward the second group of musicians for their concert-going. Since there is now some travel involved from community to community, there is a tendency toward more precise scheduling and somewhat more formal communication about times and programs.
Now add more communities into the mix, with an expanded variety of arts and entertainments, including such things as educational lectures and diverting sporting spectacles. We can see where this is going. As the practice and enjoyment of these arts becomes more integrated and distributed among the various communities, the need for tighter scheduling arises. Also, given the higher resource and time costs involved in the expanded travel and production, the performers from these communities are somewhat less willing than before to perform for one another on an informal tit-for-tat basis, but begin to require more formal contractual arrangements. And rather than bartering performance for performance, money will likely become involved so that these performances become fully integrated into the entire background system of discretionary market exchange. Activities that were once leisure activities have now become jobs.
On reflection, it is obvious how important this kind of process has been in the past in turning informal sharing and gifting into more formal economic arrangements. We use our leisure, the time during which we are not working in the formal economy, to do things we enjoy and find valuable, sometimes creatively expanding our repertoire of skilled activities. Many of these activities are not solitary pursuits, but are cooperative or participatory group endeavors. And over time, some of the more desirable activities become rationalized and organized in more formal and efficient systems, and are eventually integrated into the formal economy. Think about how many widely performed activities making up our modern economic lives were once unavailable to people struggling with more demanding economic circumstances, or were available only to a very small leisured few. There are now large economic sectors consisting of professional actors, musicians, painters, athletes, toy-makers, educators and restaurateurs, and a massive infrastructure of venues and marketing channels for the consumption and enjoyment of these arts. Many of these delights could not exist, or at least not exist in their present abundance, in a more primitive economic system in which people need to work harder and longer than they do now just to provide themselves with the rudiments of life. Improvements in productivity are continually creating more leisure, but that leisure is continually creating new kinds of formal employment. It is a cyclic process of social and economic development.
So it seems to me that it is at least possible that our future, even granting that it is one in which many of our current economic operations have been efficiently automated, will contain just as much formal employment per capita as it does now. No one can say for sure. But in the meantime, there are other worries about the techno-utopian vision worth brooding upon. Whatever might be the case for our long term future, right now there are many people who are poor, or who certainly do not have what they regard as enough. Also, the world as it stands is in need of major structural transformations in the ways we generate energy, transport ourselves from place to place, educate ourselves, care for our planet and preserve its beauty, and organize our habitations, our politics and our communities. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. By indulging the techno-utopian vision, we may prematurely accept a new normal of stagnation, unrelieved misery, degradation of the environment, social decay and a general failure to live up to our full potential and achieve our highest dreams. We might also grow complacently comfortable with a world in which many people are unemployed or underemployed, and in which the fruits of our economic civilization are not shared in anything close to an equal fashion.
We should not fall prey to the notion that the challenges of the allocation of work and income can be met entirely through safety net programs that create a barely tolerable floor through which people cannot fall. People who are not working will generally have less wealth, less political power and influence, and fewer social and political connections. They are politically weak, and the politically stronger use their strength to make the weak even weaker over time. And when people are not employed, their skills and level of social participation may decline. Their sense of pride and dignity can be eroded as well due to their consciousness of their dependence on others, and due to their limited opportunities for making highly rewarded contributions and earning social esteem. Welfare programs are unlikely to deliver to the underemployed anything approaching the riches that the owners of the means of production reserve for themselves. So the seductions of an imagined but unachieved utopia of abundance and leisure could lead to a highly undemocratic and stratified dystopia of neo-feudal hierarchy, organized around a system of degrading human management of alienated and powerless masses. Perhaps we already have something like that system in place.
As we move forward into whatever future we decide to build, I think we should be guided by a few simple principles. Our societies should be based on ideals of cooperation, democratic participation, solidarity and reciprocity. There will always be some work to be done, and whatever total amount of work we decide as a society to do, that work burden should be shared as equally as is practically possible. And if we do move toward a form of life which contains a greater aggregate proportion of leisure than we enjoy now, that leisure should also be divided as equally as is practically possible, along with all of the other economic fruits of our common life together.
Cross-posted from Rugged Egalitarianism