By conservative critics, Utopia has been characterized as a mode of thought at best naive, at worst totalitarian. Its goals are said to be achievable only through the forceful imposition of a static model of perfection upon a necessarily conflicted and diverse humankind. While it is true that visions of utopia are everywhere employed by individuals and groups hoping to impose their versions of the good upon others, postmodern thought has informed a new generation of utopian thinkers who address in more ambiguous and complicated ways the ancient utopian question: to what extent, and to what ends, do we humans create the realities we inhabit? and how then should we live?
After reviewing the foundational text of the genre, Thomas More’s Utopia, we’ll work through a group of late-20th century theoretical and literary texts that unmake the conventions of the genreas they explore the dynamics of what Ernst Bloch calls “The Principle of Hope.”
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