Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Utopia is the title of a Latin book by Thomas More (circa 1516). The word "utopia" is intended by More to suggest two Greek neologisms simultaneously: outopia (no place) and eutopia (good place).

The word utopia has taken on a more general meaning, to describe any imaginary but good image of society. Further, it has been used to describe actual communities founded in attempts to put such theories into practice. Finally, utopian is often used to refer to good but (physically, socially, economically, or politically) impossible proposals, or at least very difficult ones.

More depicts a rationally organised society, through the narration of an explorer, Raphael Hythlodaeus. Utopia is a republic which holds all property in common. For example, it has no lawyers, and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbours. Possibly More, a religious layman who once considered joining the Church as a priest, was inspired by the monachal rule when he describes the working of his society. It was an inspiration for the Reducciones established by the Jesuits to Christianize and "civilize" the Guaranis.

The utopia can be idealistic or practical, but the term has acquired a strong connotation of optimistic, idealistic, impossible perfection. The utopia may be usefully contrasted with the undesirable dystopia (anti-utopia, pseudo-utopia) and the satirical utopia.

Table of contents
1 Economic
2 Political and historical
3 Religious
4 Scientific and technological
5 Examples
6 See also
7 External links
8 Related


Centered on the nineteenth century, many utopian novels arose, often in response to the social disruption promoted by the development of commercialism and capitalism. Proposing a "better" situation were socialist and communist utopias that generally revolve around an equalitarian distribution of goods, frequently with the total abolition of money, and citizens only doing work which they enjoy and which is for the common good, leaving them with ample time for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. One classic was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. William Morris' News from Nowhere is another socialist utopia written in response to the top-down (bureaucratic) nature of Bellamy's utopia. George Orwell's 1984 was a dystopia that might be seen as a critique of Bellamyite socialism and also of the USSR, fascism, and the statist tendencies in the United Kingdom and in the McCarthyite United States of the time (1948).

Unlike the collectivist tone so often found in utopias, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein is an individualistic and libertarian utopia. Capitalist utopias of this sort are generally based on perfect market economies, in which there is no market failure -- or the issue is never addressed. Some cynics see most economics textbooks as being nothing but stories of capitalist utopias.

Political and historical

A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible inevitable endings of history.

Sparta was a militaristic utopia founded by Lycurgus (though some, especially Athenians, may have thought it was rather a dystopia). It was a Greek power until its defeat by the Thebans at the battle of Leuctra.

In the United States during the Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century, many radical religious groups formed utopian societies. They sought to form communities where all aspects of the people's lives could be governed by their faith. The best-known and by far the most successful of these utopian societies was the Shaker movement.


The Christian and Islamic ideas of heaven tend to be utopian, especially in their folk-religious forms: inviting speculation about existence free of sin and poverty or any sorrow, beyond the power of death (although "heaven" in Christian eschatology at least, is more nearly equivalent to life within God Himself, visualized as an earth-like paradise in the sky). In a similar sense, a Buddhist concept of Nirvana may be thought of as a kind of utopia. Religious utopias, perhaps expansively described as a garden of delights, existence free of worry amid streets paved with gold, in a bliss of enlightenment enjoying nearly godlike powers, are often a reason for perceiving benefit in remaining faithful to a religion, and an incentive for converting new members.

See also: End of the world, Eschatology, Millennialism, Utopianism

Scientific and technological

These are set in the future, when advanced science and technology will allow utopian living standards; for example, the absence of death and suffering; changes in human nature and the human condition. A technological utopia is sometimes called "extropia," especially by transhumanists.

See also: transhumanism, technological singularity

Opposing this optimism is the prediction that advanced science and technology will, through deliberate misuse or accident, cause humanity's extinction. These pessimists advocate precautions over embracement.


Warning: Plot details follow.

See also

Note: The article Utopian/Dystopian Fiction is a old placekeeper with notes on various books and should be refactored into the Utopia and Dystopia articles.

External links