Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Utopia

In the realm of science fiction, we often try to imagine societies that have improved past the arguably dire state of our own.  If you look at today’s world as a whole, there’s a lot of room for improvement.  The question is, how do we work on our problems in a way to make things better for everyone?  Is that even possible?  Differences in ideologies and values systems, as well as personal experience, mean that we’ll all have a different idea on how to go about turning our world into an ideal place.  We may have an idea of how we want the world to be, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of people who disagree.

Many kinds of utopian societies have been envisioned.  Perhaps someone’s idea of utopia is to live within a tight-knit community of people who hold the same religious beliefs as they do.  Historically, plenty of communities have been founded for this express purpose.  I live in Iowa, so I am inclined to mention the Amana Colonies as an example.

The proposed religious utopian community New Harmony.
Image found here.
There were also communes in the 1960’s that sought to bring people together to live off the land and come up with new ways to govern themselves as a group.  That is also the same time period that brought us feminist utopias presented within the realm of science fiction.  Joanna Russ’ The Female Man is an example of this.  In this novel, four different women from parallel worlds encounter one another, and the conflicting ideas of gender roles they each have challenges them and the reader to question the assumptions of gender that we might make.  Books like this were born at that time because women were fighting to be seen as equals and yearned to be able to define themselves on their own terms.

Star Trek shows us a kind of utopian society.  They’ve abolished money, poverty and war are nonexistent (at least between human beings-worlds that exist outside The Federation still cause plenty of problems), and people work with the goal of bettering themselves and the rest of humanity.  Science and technology add to the quality of life.  It’s not all perfect, of course.  Individuals can still be corrupt, can still crave power for personal gain.  And since not all sentient beings ascribe to the same ideals and live within this utopian society, threats still exist.

What would your idea of a utopian society be?  Is it even possible to come anywhere near creating a utopian society?  If you don’t believe it’s possible, do you think it’s even worth trying?  If you were to go about creating a utopia, how would you engage with those who disagree with your ideas about what a utopia would be?  Do you find depictions of utopian societies interesting, or do dystopian narratives resonate with you more?  Why? 


  1. A utopian society would be one with no war, all peace and harmony. We'll get there one day.

  2. I did a module on utopia in fiction when I did my English Lit degree, and the books I had to read for it were kind of boring. It's much more interesting to read about dystopia, but I'd rather live in a utopia. I haven't really thought about what it would be like, though. I'd certainly get rid of money and classes, so that everyone could enjoy the same things.

  3. If it is a Utopia like we see in the Federation in Star Trek, then great!
    But anytime I see the idea of a Utopia my first thought is "yeah, but what about the seedy underbelly and who is being repressed in secret?"

    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

  4. I remember the avatars wanted to achieve utopia in Charmed. The got there, but the consequences were too high.

  5. I think the only way it would be possible is if you can get rid of greed.

  6. I believe it is possible to create a utopian society of humans but not to sustain one infinitely. Dissatisfaction is a human trait, and desire for change is inevitable. Someone always wants to improve on someone else's idea of perfection.
    Gail visiting for AtoZ