Persistent Thematic Issues:

utopia v. eutopia v. dystopia (general v. good v. bad)

authoritarian v. anti-authoritarian (individual and/v. society)

technological v. anti-technological

extrapolative v. reversing


Historical Development:

  Ancient World     Economy based on slaves
  Christian Renaissance   Economy based on regularized work
  Industrial Revolution   Economy based on machines (or their rejection)
  Post-Industrial Revolution   Economy based on humans as machines (and vice versa)


Plato, Republic (c. 380 BCE): Guardians/philosopher-kings; based on the "necessary lie"

Aristophanes, "The Clouds," "The Birds" (c. 375 BCE): satire of Plato

Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus (c. 70): Sparta

Thomas More, Utopia (1516): gold for mercenaries and chamber pots

François Rabelais, "The Abbey of Thélème," Gargantua (1534): "Do what thou wilt"

Friar Tommaso Campanella, The City of the Sun (1602): Holy Universal Republic–first to abolish slavery and esteem work, yet still with rigid laws and the death penalty

Valentin Andreae, Christianopolis (1619): medieval cities + Calvin's quartered and moral Geneva

Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis (1627): House of Salomon for scientists in a 1900-year line from Solamona (n.b.: Novum Organum, 1620)

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651): no "natural rights"; absolute monarchy

Gerard Winstanley, The Law of Freedom (1652): Diggers' Movement of St. George's Hill experiment in Surrey (see Ruskin's Guild of St. George)

Gabriel de Foigny, A New Discovery of Terra Incognita Australis (1676): rejected by Geneva's Venerable Company because no Original Sin

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726): 1-Lilliput; 2-Brobdingnag; 3-Laputa (floating city) and others; 4-Houyhnhnms (v. Yahoos)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755): civilization enslaves us to laws preserving private property; Émile (1762): education by placing child in "natural" environment; The Social Contract (1762): justice through legal equality for all, more equitable distribution of wealth, and government performs the will of the people and exists and governs by their "consent"

Samuel Johnson, Rasselas (1759): Rasselas of Abyssinia leaves Happy Valley with Imlac and sister Nekayah only to return

Denis Diderot, Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage (1796): Rousseauvian Tahiti

Charles Fourier (1772-1837): communist Garden Cities, sexually free, run by phalansteries of 1,800; see Robert Owen; see Brook Farm (1841-1847; nr W Roxbury, Mass.) and Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, 1852

Robert Owen (1771-1858): behaviorist (e.g., variably colored monitors) communal utopias in New Lanark Mills, Scotland (1799), and New Harmony, Indiana (1821); A New View of Society (1813); The Revolution in Mind and Practice of the Human Race (1849)

Louis Blanc, The Organisation of Work (1839): state-aided and capitalized communes tried after Revolution of 1848 but failed

Étienne Cabet, A Voyage to Icaria (1839): community of goods, time-table laws, and "elastic clothes" (Nauvoo, Illinois)

Karl Marx, Das Kapital (1867 ff.): "From everyone according to his faculties, to everyone according to his needs."  "The locomotive of history."

Lord Lytton, The Coming Race (1871): "vril staff" (cf. A. E. van Vogt)

Samuel Butler, Erewhon (1872): satiric hyperborean utopia with the sick jailed, musical banks, and machine evolution

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888): State Capitalism & Industrial Army

William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890): free, rich society of individuals who have no power over each other; medievalist reply to Bellamy

Theodor Hertzka, Freeland: A Social Anticipation (1891): life-stock of money to age 25

Eugene Richter, Pictures of a Socialist Future (1893): liberal attack on Bellamyism turned into what we would call Nazism

H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (1905): Socialism and Individualism under the "voluntary nobility" of the Samurai & central file

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915): isolated, feminist, parthenogenetic utopia highlighting work, safety, and cooperation

Karel Capek, R.U.R. (1920): the humanoids (robots [androids]) turn and kill their masters

Eugene Zamiatin, We (1920): Sovietism in extremis: the United State allows privacy only during "sexual hours" & death is the penalty for non-conformity

H. G. Wells, Men Like Gods (1923): enlightened flowering of "natural man" without laws, government, or clothing

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): bottled babies, hypnopaedia, soma, fun sex, but no love; Savage can't take it

Ayn Rand, Anthem (1938, UK; 1946, USA): Equality 7-2521 finds knowledge and runs to woods w/ Golden One to find EGO!

A. E. van Vogt, "The Weapon Shop" (1942; The Weapon Shops of Isher, 1951): good guys arm vigilantes & use central file (n.b.: Slan, 1940: peaceful, persecuted telepathic mutants)

George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945): some animals are more equal than others, like Napoleon

B. F. Skinner, Walden Two (1948): operant conditioning for perfect adaptation to communal life (see Twin Oaks [nr Louisa VA], founded 1967)

George Orwell, 1984 (1949): Newspeak, doublethink, & Winston Smith's fear of Big Brother and rats

David Karp, One (1953): the Benevolent State, non-technological (w/ files)

Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End (1953): The Second Coming

Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human (1953): Homo Gestalt

William Hjortsberg, Gray Matters (1971): cerebromorphs earn awareness rights until they get a perfect sexless body in Eden

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974): "for the partner" on anarchist Anarres v. monopoly capitalist Urras

Thomas M. Disch, 334 (1974): In a monolith future NYC apartment building, people strive to get beyond the MODICUM; fragmented narrative structure

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976): Consuelo, a poor Chicana, either time travels to or hallucinates a bucolic ("forward into the past") Mattapoisett

James Gurney, Dinotopia (1992): lavishly illustrated father and son 1860s "journal" tells of Lost World paradise of human/dinosaur society in which "Dolphinbacks" are reborn (cf. film of Jurassic Park, 1993)


Persistent Philosophical Questions:

Does humanity change society or society change humanity?

Are humans innately good or innately evil?

Is happiness a presence (e.g., material) or an absence (e.g., lack of restraint)?



Marie Louise Berneri, Journey Through Utopia (London, 1950)

Frank E. Manuel & Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1979)

Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (New Haven CT, 1979)


Copyright © 1975-2001 Eric S. Rabkin