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More depicts a rationally organised society, through the narration of an explorer, Raphael Hythlodaeus. Utopia is a republic which holds all property in common. It has no lawyers, and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its warprone neighbours. Possibly More, a religious layman who once considered joining the Church, 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 title has since been used as a generic word to describe both works of fiction in which the author's theories of a better way to organise society are dramatised, and actual communities founded in attempts to put such theories into practice.
The word "utopia" is intended by More to suggest two Greek neologisms simultaneously: outopia (noplace) and eutopia (goodplace).
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.
Socialist and communist utopias generally revolve around a more equitable 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.
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.
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.
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.
See also cacotopia, Utopia Planitia, utopic socialism, ecotopia.
- 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.
- Utopia by Thomas More, Full text available in multiple formats
- Utopias - Robert Schenk Utopias from the perspective of economics: "[Utopias] have no room for economics and they do not work in the real world."
- Utopia - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001
- Utopia - Definition and History of the Term - The New Encyclopaedia Britannica
- "If you like this, then you'll like that" - Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide