This course provides an introduction to utopian and anti-utopian ideas in political theory. Questions to be addressed include: the political causes and purpose of utopia and anti-utopia, the position of race, gender, religion and technology in utopian and anti-utopian thought, utopian ideals in action, and the possibilities for utopia in the post-modern world. Seekers after utopia ask many questions. What would the perfect society look like? How should relations among men and women, rich and poor, citizen and alien be organized for the benefit of all? What kind of political system would guarantee peace, prosperity and plenty for all people? In what kind of society would the individual find fulfillment? How can we harness technology for the
good of all humanity? In this course we will examine and judge the answers provided across the two-thousand (and more) year history of utopian political thought. We will also consider efforts to actualize utopia in “intentional communities.” We will also consider how popular culture in all its many forms reflects the utopian ideal. We will examine how some have recently challenged the utopian idea. “Dystopian” writers have produced a new kind of political literature which examines the dangerous possibilities inherent in the utopian project. Finally will we consider variants of the utopian ideal such as millennialism and “golden ages.”
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