Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature

Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature

Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature

Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature

Synopsis

The 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia has directed attention toward the importance of utopianism. This book investigates the possibilities of cooperation between the humanities and the social sciences in the analysis of 20th century and contemporary utopian phenomena. The papers deal with major problems of interpreting utopias, the relationship of utopia and ideology, and the highly problematic issue as to whether utopia necessarily leads to dystopia. Besides reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary utopian investigations, the eleven essays effectively represent the constructive attitudes of utopian thought, a feature that not only defines late 20th- and 21st-century utopianism, but is one of the primary reasons behind the rising importance of the topic.

The volume’s originality and value lies not only in the innovative theoretical approaches proposed, but also in the practical application of the concept of utopia to a variety of phenomena which have been neglected in the utopian studies paradigm, especially to the rarely discussed Central European texts and ideologies.

Excerpt

In 2016 we celebrated the five-hundredth anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia. the year 1516 is significant, even though it marks only the birth of a neologism and a literary genre that evolved into a very rich tradition, while utopian thought, the ability to think in alternatives about human life, is probably as old as human thinking itself. Utopia has always been in the no man’s land between literature and the social sciences: literary works, including utopias, are often ignored by the social sciences, while works of imaginary literature are sometimes used as illustrations. This volume tries to look at utopian literature as a source of genuine political understanding. Simultaneously, literary scholars often criticize (and even ignore) utopias for their dubious literary qualities and their lack of welldeveloped characters, genuine conflicts, and complex narratives. As we can see, the context for the interpretation of utopias is not unproblematic, and there have been drastic changes in the way the subject of utopia is discussed, from the wholesale rejection of utopian projects by both Friedrich Engels and Karl Popper to the contemporary recognition of utopia as a dynamizing force in the social sciences, as reflected by the 2012 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association entitled “Real Utopias: Emancipatory Projects, Institutional Designs, Possible Futures.”

Utopianism can significantly contribute to the understanding and improvement of human life, but the understanding of utopia needs to

Cf. Maureen Whitebrook, “Politics and Literature?,” Politics 15, no. 1 (1995): 55–62.

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