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Definitions of Utopia/Utopianism

Utopianism is a transforming force, and a noble attempt; it is also, in its adversary position toward the complications of the mind with all its doubts and conflicts, a force that places limits on the human. Trilling found related tension in the atypical nature of American democracy, which doubted the very powers of mind it relied upon, aiming to the ways the mind formed limits to freedom, creating order and hierarchy, persisting on boundaries and conditions. There is no simple decree to these tensions.

For Sargent, “utopianism is social dreaming” he further defines “Utopianism is an umbrella term referring to a way of seeing and approaching the world and to subsequent ways of representing what is perceived of the world”. (Sargent, 1975, 1994). Ruth Levitas uses the word ‘utopia’ in the same umbrella sense; for her it refers to the expression of a desire for different (and better) ways of being (Levitas, 1990). According to Bellamy Edward “Any notion of social progress is going to flirt with intolerant and doctrinaire generalization” (Bellamy, Edward 1888).

This is the shade cast by utopianism even on the most supple and rational vision of human society. But devoid of that vision, without a liberal considerate of the possibilities of human nature. There is a catastrophic quality to these tensions. History of utopias. What are the major features of these centuries? How a century differentiates from the previous century? How social developments/events affect utopias? What is meant by utopia is to be understood more generally as the yearning for a better way of living uttered in the description of a diverse kind of society that makes feasible that alternative way of life.

There might be many reasons for finding utopian thought motivating, but the political significance of utopia rests on the argument that a vision of a good society placed in the future can act as an agent of change. “Politically, utopia is significant as of its potential role in social revolution. The absence of utopian thinking can then be construed as a problem as it paralyses political action or prevents it from joining together into a force competent of effecting basic change” (Mannheim, Karl1979, 63).

As William Morris put it, “it is fundamental that the ideal of the new society must always be kept before the eyes of the working classes, lest the continuity of the demands of the people must be broken, or lest they must be misdirected” (1905, 76-78). Both David Harvey in The Condition of Post modernity and Fredric Jameson in Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, on which Harvey draws, argue that post modernity forms difficulties concerning thinking about the future.

The state of post modernity is one in which the future presents itself as foreclosed-or certainly fails to present itself at all. If this is true, then it might anticipate that the utopian imagination finds little place in the postmodern world. Basically, The “history of utopia” is found in all cultures in visions of happy hunting grounds, of the heavens of desert peoples who equip these abodes with trees and cool waters, or with such refinements as trains of sloe-eyed houris.

The Eskimo places his in the warm earth while his hell the anti-Utopia –is in the cold sky. The Garden of Eden is a Utopia of the past, of the golden age of innocence, and the Millennial Age of the Second Coming is one yet to appear. Plato envisioned his Republic for this earth with slaves to comfort the upper classes. A “royal lie,” endlessly repeated, would control the minds of citizens from childhood onward. There would be state love festivals for the controlled propagation of at least the better strains of people, and with no foolishness of falling in love.

But later, if medieval man had any dreams of Utopia on earth, he were wise to keep them to himself. Christian civilization with its learning, its science, its arts, had been crushed by successive inroads of barbarians who were scarcely restrained by the papal dictums which somewhat held down the slaughter of Christians by each other. The final crushing of Rome in the fifth century marked the beginning of the Dark Ages which are so called because of the black mental stagnation of particularly the first half of the thousand years.

Men were busy trying to keep alive–but part of the stagnation came from the destruction of libraries and other evidences and sources of civilization so that such scholars as there might have been more or less had to start from scratch. Too, the Church pretty much quashed the arts and forbade the literature of the classical ages for the most part. Scientists proved points–which simple observation would have disproved–by “Aristotle saith. ” Money had pretty much disappeared so that alchemy flourished in its search for gold.

Philosophers sought not for the cause but for the purpose of things–e. g. , the sun was there to warm the earth, and eclipses were to show the power of God and to warn of His awfulness. Free inquiry was likely to end in heresy. The official philosophy of the age, as it advanced, was that European society was a perfected one, with pope and priests as “the head of the body,” king and nobles as “the warring arms,” and the serf as the toiling feet on which the whole dead weight complacently rested.

Nor may the monasteries of the day be considered the beginnings of communalism, as America was to know it, for while the inmates of the cloisters did eat from a common store and obey a superior, they rested upon the slavery of the serfs who moiled in the broad abbey lands. The status quo of these serfs, and of other classes, was promoted by the preachment that each man was in a niche especially selected for him by God. Besides that Picturing a golden age in which all men lived as brothers, was polished off as having existed in England until the Normans arrived.

Now, said the petitioners, the descendants of the Normans held all the land, and it was demanded that these be driven out and everything given back “to the people” in common. Other proposals would have enfranchised the propertyless–and all of them got exactly as far as might have been anticipated since it was the sons of the Normans who acted on the petitions. a) Ancient times As in ancient times, a utopia can be ideal, satiric, or indistinct. It may have traces of countrified idyll, millennial faith, or Rabelaisian indulgence.

Whatever else it reflects, it acts as a mirror tilted by the author to grasp new angles on well-known aspects of his or her society. It sets out to persuade culture shock, and frequently succeeds. But it’s also self-referential. Since utopian writing in this era frequently constitutes simply a part, not the entire, of a given text, it raises remarkable questions about its own fictional role in relation to its hosts. It is, so, not easy to categorize, as the very core of utopia depends on understanding comparison across categories: qualities which must be indivisible from the skill of reading itself.

Apocalypse and millenarianism associated with charisma, crisis, social critique and social marginality still dominate many discussions of prophecy outside the biblical context. One Old Testament scholar has complained of modern meanings of ‘prophet’: “The emphasis may be on prediction, emotional preaching, social activism, or the power to enlighten, to communicate insight, as with the leader of a cult group. The older meaning of biblical interpreter, in use among the Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has survived among evangelicals, though here the stress is generally on millenarian and apocalyptic interpretation.

Rather curiously, the term is also quite often used of millenarian cults by sociologists of religion. In no case is a preferred connotation based on a critical-historical and typological study of the phenomenon in the Hebrew Bible”. D. H. Johnson, 1990, p. 53 If the terms ‘prophet’ and ‘prophecy’ are to retain any descriptive power and analytical value in historical literature, then they must be used with care. Otherwise no author can assume that the terms will automatically be understood as intended; nor can readers be sure of an author’s intent.

In the section which follows we will attempt to detach ‘prophet’ from some of the predominant ideas and images which now surround it in history and the social sciences. b) 16th century Starting in the early part of the sixteenth century, utopian discourse characterizes one way for a modernizing society to symbolize itself critically to itself, a self-narration that, critically, appears long before “the establishment of the scientific theory of society,” by which Marin means Marx’s historical materialism (Louis Marin, “Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia,” Glyph, no. 1 (1977): 52).

The conjectural discourse about utopia operates (like in dreams, the screen memory) by filling up the gaps and the blanks of the utopian text, of the utopian space, by turning out the systematic elements which are essential to make the text comprehensible. This production was probable only apres coup, in a site supposed to be the true information of the end of history that is the end of utopia as well. (Louis Marin, “Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia,” Glyph, no. 1 1977: 52) The manifestation of totalization and scientificity that one finds in these sorts of theoretical discourses are actually a product of this retrospective view.

The difference between what it may call the open-ended nature of the figurations formed in the narrative utopia and the finality of theoretical discourses, the end of history and the end of metaphorical or perceptual practices is recommended by Marin when he writes, “Utopia practice sets up into the historical narrative and geographical account the sudden distance by which the contiguities of space and time are broken and throughout which is discerned, in a flare of lightning, before it is powerless in the utopia figure and fixed in the ‘ideal’ depiction, the other, unlimited contradiction” (1977: 55).

Here the fixing “ideal representation” can be thought of as the theoretical image, or Darstellung, and the “other” as the open-ended potential of meaning, of supplementary, and of historical difference that the spatial play of the utopian form makes offered in its own present. The danger arises while the perspective is reversed and the theoretical dissertation usurps the place of the figuration, thus transforming social and cultural processes, the very life-blood of chronological movement, into dead reified entities. c) 17th century

The seventeenth century emerges to offer almost ideal conditions for a golden age of utopian writing. Looking back to the traditional world and Renaissance, and forward to the modern world, this early modern period is intriguingly poised: sufficiently unbalanced to dream of lost paradises, yet seduced by a utopian or millenarian vision of progress through revolutionary change. If the utopian genus had not existed, the seventeenth century would have had to devise it. Since it does exist, the entire kinds of writers rush to re-invent it.

though this isn’t an insular phenomenon — Continental Europe makes a noteworthy input to the genre in this period — yet, for historical reasons, seventeenth-century England is a mainly propitious rational environment for anyone moved by the utopian desire (Piercy, Marge 1978). The commotion of civil war and its comprehensive preliminaries and aftermath; the confrontation to authority and the opportunities for social and political research; the advances in scientific theory and practice, and the disagreements in theology: all throw up more great varieties of utopian fiction than even the earlier Renaissance.

The characteristic forms and topoi continue, but blend change. Instead of classical balance, there is a type of baroque irregularity, foregrounding specific obsessions: with science, religion, sex or politics. It is in this century that can see the raise of specialist utopias reflecting alternative interests. Thus far classification becomes more rather than less hard as a result.

From the vantage point of the following century, it’s probable to recognize certain fruitful variations which will in time fertilize eighteenth-century satire and the novel; however there is an expected untidiness while it comes to placing individual texts, as a number fit more than one class. For instance, the same utopia can be rationalist, methodical, and religious; the fantastical and the scientific partly cover, as in the subgenre of moon voyages; and sex and politics sneak into almost everything in some shape or form.

Generic restraints also loosen up; expecting the emergent novel, so that utopian fictions thrive more and more within texts that are mainly non-utopian. Not that this is a new idea. Rabelais and Cervantes offer classic examples, and in the seventeenth-century English context Robert Burton includes a typically sharp-witted compendium of utopian motifs in the vast Anatomy of Melancholy. Though, it further dissolves the genre into fragments within a medley of linked forms.

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