Utopia: Dreams and Wakeupcalls

 

An essay about a better (mini-)society by Luc Sala (with Wikipedia)

 

 

Why is the concept of Utopia relevant to community living or intentional communities? One could easily discard the whole notion of an Utopian society as a unrealistic, non dynamic dream of some writers, do-gooders or religious leaders, who believe that an ideal state or society could work but assume ideal people. It is easy to point out how the human limitations like ego and material greed would make such a society a pipe-dream, a fata-morgana, an illusion that could never work. And yet, most of us strive to improve our lives and our part of the world, from a selfish or social point of view, we vote for those who promise us those improvements and in most political movements there is a distinct utopian flavour. In thinking about communities that at least in some respect should be better, more humane, more ecological we can therefore learn from the utopists, those who made intellectual or artistic constructs and those who actually tried to create an utopian or eutopian (mini-)society.

 

We all have dreams about a world that would be more perfect, better organised, less greedy, more humane that what we experience in our daily life. And even those who believe that there is sense and direction in what we perceive as reality, that our world is a great school with a perfect curriculum at times are tempted to change that a bit, make it a better place for all of us. These dreams, all through history, have been laid down in books or verse, painted or sculpted in art and appear in the various interpretations of heaven, paradise. Many times these ideas or dreams were tested in reality, in communities, ashrams, monasteries, cults, in whole countries but alas, without much lasting success. Only monasteries and religious communities seem to have staying power and a sustainable model, but even there many were short-lived.

 

As we are planning an intentional work/live/create community it does make sense to study the historical and conceptual aspects of the virtual and real utopia’s. Our community will never be a real utopia, as we don’t intend to separate from the rest of the world and have no ambition to be more that an a little seed in the sea of awareness. The Utopian concepts do have value for us, as their usually deal with one or more of the aspects of scarcity, be it material or the less defined needs for happiness or security.

 

One gets the impression, that the various utopist writers have usually projected some part of their own personality into their utopian worldview at the expense of a more balanced approach. Often aspects like where the material affluences, overcoming the need to worry about food, comes from are neglected and just stated as a given. Or like in Plato’s or Skinner’s (Walden 2) ideal societies there are kings/philosophers or very gifted planner/executives who in fact establish a kind of totalitarian regime. The question who is controlling the controllers, who is planning the planners, the feedback mechanism we assume works (somewhat) in democracy is missing. They assume an ideal state based on ideal people, the same as Rousseau who was realistic enough to admit that this is fictional, real people have real human shortcomings.

 

Another aspect that is missing in many utopia’s is the development of the individual, how to deal with frustrations, criminal intent, depressions etc. Again a the ideal human doesn’t have these problems so they are ignored or treated as a residue of the non-ideal past. But an real community does have to deal with this and organising war games as in Ecotopia is a kind of drastic solution. The inner development of the partners and guest of the community is, in my view, the most important, it really should be school for life, a place for growth, not a kind of material paradise where everybody lives long, happily but without change or development. This is missing in most utopian concepts. 

 

So these are relevant questions:

·       Is utopia possible?

·       Are utopian ideas meant to be acted on?

·       If not, what other purposes do they serve?

·       What practical lessons can we learn?

·       Is there a theoretical model that classifies utopian concepts?

·       Are we able to imagine ourselves living in these worlds? What about individual will and desire?

·       Are totalitarian and even fascist societies utopian?

 

We can find the origins of utopian ideas in images of perfection and imagined ideal societies from classical and biblical literature. A tension between the ideal and the real can be felt in nearly all of the source. Many of these worlds are set outside history in a golden age, before time began or in a mythical time governed by its own rules. The idea of a Garden of Eden is a kind of utopian concept. The Genesis story of creation, told in the opening chapter of the Bible, is one of the earliest descriptions of paradise. The image of the Garden of Eden is a powerful one. The creation myth and the Garden of Eden represent the beginning of human time and experience, and therefore can conjure powerful images of a pure time and place, unmarked by history. In common with other early myths, it is set outside time and marks an ideal or Golden Age before things went wrong in the world.
The Genesis myth was set in Mesopotamia. It was written down in c.10 BC by scribes of the 'priestly tradition'.

 

Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived between 427 and 347 BC. Plato argues, notably in The Republic, that wisdom based on truth and reason is at the heart of the just person and the just society. One of the passages describes prisoners trapped in a cave, watching shadows of life outside cast on the wall by the light of a fire. After a while they will think of the shadows as reality. But in truth reality is different and can only be known by those outside the cave who live in the light of the sun. Plato describes his statesmen (guardians) as people who have struggled to the sunlight of reason and learnt the truth about the material world (physics) and the moral and spiritual world (metaphysics.) Only such philosophers can be trusted to rule the state. The Republic (Greek: Πολιτεία / Politeía, meaning "political system;" Latin: Res Publica, meaning "public business") is a Socratic dialogue, written in approximately 360 BC. It is one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory, and arguably Plato's best known work. In it, Socrates and various other Athenians and foreigners discuss the meaning of justice and whether the just man is happier than the unjust man by constructing an imaginary city ruled by philosopher-kings. The dialogue also discusses the nature of the philosopher, Plato's Theory of Forms, the conflict between philosophy and poetry, and the immortality of the soul.

Aristotle's Politics (Greek Πολιτικά) about how a city (polis) is to be organized is a work of political philosophy and kind of models many of Plato’s notions, sometimes with a different conclusions.

Sparta was in a way a militaristic eutopia founded by Lycurgus (though some, especially Athenians, may have considered it a dystopia). It was a Greek power until its defeat by the Thebans at the battle of Leuctra.

Virgil was a Roman poet (70-19 BC). Unlike the earlier writers who often described the Golden Age as outside time or virtual, Virgil's Eclogue suggests that human progress might lead to a more affluent and leisured world in the foreseeable future. His fourth Eclogue, the Messianic Eclogue, is the clearest example of the shift from a timeless to a more historical view of a perfect world. An eclogue is a 'pastoral' poem that idealizes rural life. The term messianic suggests the promise of rescue or relief.

The Amphictyons by Telecleides, a Greek comic poet of the 5th century BC, is quoted by AthenausTelecleides presents in The Deipnosophists a Golden Age of impossibly effortless plenty. He plays on his audience's understanding that this ideal era never truly existed and never would. By presenting one extreme satirically he implies a belief in the opposite idea - that prosperity is the result of hard work.

Utopia is a name for an ideal society, taken from the title of a book written in 1516 by Sir Thomas More describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempted to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature. "Utopia" is sometimes used pejoratively, in reference to an unrealistic ideal that is impossible to achieve, and has spawned other concepts, most prominently dystopia.

The word comes from Greek: ο, "not", and τόπος, "place", indicating that More was utilizing the concept as allegory and did not consider such an ideal place to be realistically possible. It is worth noting that the homophone Eutopia, derived from the Greek ε, "good" or "well", and τόπος, "place", signifies a double meaning that was almost certainly intended. Despite this, most modern usage of the term "Utopia" assumes the latter meaning, that of a place of perfection rather than nonexistence. Some questions have arisen about the fact that writers and people in history have used utopia to define a perfect place. Utopia is a perfect but unreal place. A proper definition of a perfect and real place is eutopia.

More's utopia is largely based on Plato's Republic. It is a perfect version of Republic wherein the beauties of society reign (eg: equality and a general pacifist attitude), although its citizens are all ready to fight if need be. The evils of society, eg: poverty and misery, are all removed. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples). The society encourages tolerance of all religions. Some readers have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More's Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent equivocation between the Greek for "no place" and "good place": "Utopia" is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning "no", and topos, meaning place. But the homonymous prefix eu-, meaning "good," also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly "good place" is really "no place."

Economic utopia

These utopias are based on economics. Most intentional communities attempting to create an economic utopia were formed in response to the harsh economic conditions of the 19th century.

Particularly in the early nineteenth century, several utopian ideas arose, often in response to the social disruption created by the development of commercialism and capitalism. These are often grouped in a greater "utopian socialist" movement, due to their shared characteristics: an egalitarian distribution of goods, frequently with the total abolition of money, and citizens only doing work which they enjoy and which is for the common good, leaving them with ample time for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. One classic example of such a utopia was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. Another socialist utopia is William Morris' News from Nowhere, written partially in response to the top-down (bureaucratic) nature of Bellamy's utopia, which Morris criticized. However, as the socialist movement developed it moved away from utopianism; Marx in particular became a harsh critic of earlier socialism he described as utopian. (For more information see the History of Socialism article.) Also consider Eric Frank Russell's book The Great Explosion (1963) whose last section details an economic and social utopia. This forms the first mention of the idea of Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS).

Utopias have also been imagined by the opposite side of the political spectrum. For example, Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress portrays an individualistic and libertarian utopia. Capitalist utopias of this sort are generally based on free market economies, in which the presupposition is that private enterprise and personal initiative without an institution of coercion, government, provides the greatest opportunity for achievement and progress of both the individual and society as a whole.

There is another view that capitalist utopias do not address the issue of market failure, any more than socialist utopias address the issue of planning failure. Thus a blend of socialism and capitalism is seen by some as the type of economy in a utopia. It talks about the idea of small, community-owned enterprises working under the capitalist model of economy.

Political and historical utopia

Political utopias are ones in which the government establishes a society that is striving toward perfection. Rational thinking and a morality that was assumed should bring happines to all. They tend to be static, totalitarian and lack a balance of power, the good comes from above and cannot be criticized. But who controls the controllers, as ideal or even holy leaders are rare. A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible inevitable endings of history.

Island Utopia’s

Many utopias are isolated societies, set on remote islands or planets, and discovered by outsiders.

 

Thomas Campanella imagined a perfect society in which religion and reason work in total harmony. His La città del sole describes imaginary conversations between a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitallers (a religious military order) and his guest, a sea captain from Genoa. The sea captain describes the City of the Sun as a place where life is shaped by science and religion and all property is communal. The City of the Sun is governed by men led by reason. Every man's work contributes to the good of the community. Wealth and poverty do not exist because no one is allowed more than is needed.

 

H G Wells described a parallel earth upon which the rational and scientific are perfectly reconciled with spiritual discipline and belief. Wells' Modern Utopia was first published in 1905. It set the scene for many modern, scientific utopias and dystopias. The story is set on a planet very like earth. The Utopian Planet differs from earth in that the inhabitants have created a perfect society. Two men, the narrator and his colleague (a botanist), visit this parallel planet and argue over its merits and defects.

Utopia is a world in which the problems of humanity have been solved. People live healthy, happy lives in cities where all human needs are met. Science and technology frees people from toil and enables them to enjoy security and innovation. Wells' utopia is neither democratic nor equal. He draws on the utopias of Plato, More, and Bacon. He advocates a scientific kind of socialism, rooted in the idea that the world is orderly, knowable and controllable.

The state is ruled by the Samurai. Like Plato's Guardians, the Samurai are a moral and spiritual ruling class. They lead an ascetic (disciplined and morally strict) life, governed by the Rule. The Samurai carry out their government duties but their main business is the development of science and philosophy. Anybody that proves themselves to be able to follow the Rule is allowed to become one of the Samurai.

 

In 1719 Daniel Defoe's story Robinson Crusoe explored the possibility of a solitary utopia.

Seven years later the poet, clergyman and satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) published Gulliver's Travels - a satire on the society of the day and a warning about human folly.

Gulliver's Travels comprises four books. In each Lemuel Gulliver embarks on a voyage and is cast upon a strange land.

In the first book he becomes the giant prisoner of the six inch high Lilliputians. In the second he arrives in Brobdingnag -a land of giants. Book three takes Gulliver to Laputa, a floating island whose inhabitants are so preoccupied with higher speculations that they are in constant danger of collision.

In book four, Gulliver travels to the utopian island of the Houyhnhnms; grave and rational horses devoid of any passion, even sexual desire. The island is also inhabited by Yahoos - vicious and repulsive creatures used by the Houyhnhnms for menial work. Gulliver initially pretends not to recognize the Yahoos, but eventually admits that they are human beings.

Gulliver himself, and each of the populations encountered by him, can be identified with distinct aspects of contemporary society and human nature. Through encounters with a series of very different worlds, some of them the exact inverse of the other, Jonathan Swift exposes in Gulliver’s travels the inevitable prejudice and conflict within societies and between them.

 

 

Francis Bacon describes a remote utopian island governed entirely by reason and science. Bacon's utopia, 'The New Atlantis' was not published until after his death in 1627. He tells of the discovery of the New Atlantis, a utopian island set beyond both the Old World and New. The New Atlantis was a coda to The Great Instauration (1620). It took the form of a voyage to the island of Bensalem, the centerpiece of which is Salomon's House, a research college where the new scientific method leads to discoveries and inventions that greatly enrich the commonwealth. In Solomons House science is a collaborative undertaking, conducted in a rational and impersonal way, for the material benefit of mankind. The New Atlantis precedes science fiction, a genre of utopian and dystopian writing which deals with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals. Bacon raises the question of the link between knowledge and power. Knowledge gives people power over others. Bacon's scientists were depicted as moral paragons but also ordinary humans, and so fallible and open to corruption. This raises questions about how society controls those citizens that have powerful, potentially dangerous, knowledge.

Aldous Huxley in Island paints an utopia where some kind of psychedelic or sedating drug (Soma) is used to keep the inhabitants happy and peaceful.

 

Religious utopia

Rational or economic concept are one way to get to a better world, but many utopias are based on religious ideals, and are to date those most commonly found in human society. Their members are usually required to follow and believe in the particular religious tradition that established the utopia. Some permit non-believers or non-adherents to take up residence within them; others (such as the Community at Qumran) do not. There have been many religious communities with Utopian tendencies, from the Essenes to the Osho communes.

New Harmony, a utopian attempt; formerly named Harmony, was founded by the Harmony Society, headed by George Rapp (also known as Johann Georg(e) Rapp) in 1814. This was the second of three towns built by the pietist, communal German religious group, known as Harmonists, Harmonites or Rappites. The other two towns founded by the Harmonites were Harmony, Pennsylvania (their first town), and Economy, Pennsylvania (now called Ambridge, Pennsylvania) When the society decided to move back to Pennsylvania around 1824, they sold the 30,000 acres (121 km²) of land and buildings to Robert Owen, the Welsh utopian thinker and social reformer, and to William Maclure for $150,000, who then changed the name from "Harmony" to "New Harmony." Owen recruited residents to his model community, but a number of factors led to an early breakup of the communitarian experiment.

Luddites (and neo-luddites) are like the Amish, but more violent, they reject new technology and machines and actually try to destroy it. The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt threatened their livelihood. This English historical movement has to be seen in its context of the harsh economic climate due to the Napoleonic Wars; but since then, the term Luddite has been used to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change. The Luddite movement, which began in 1811, took its name from the fictive Ned Ludd. For a short time the movement was so strong that it clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the government included a mass trial at York in 1812 that resulted in many executions and penal transportation. The principal objection was the introduction of new wide-framed looms that could be operated by cheap, relatively unskilled labour, resulting in the loss of jobs for many textile workers.

Neo-Luddism is a modern movement of opposition to specific or general technological development. Few people describe themselves as neo-Luddites (though it is common, certainly in the UK, for people to self-deprecatingly describe themselves as Luddites if they dislike or have difficulty using modern technology); the term "neo-Luddite" is most often deployed by advocates of technology to describe persons or organizations that resist technological advances. Neo-Luddite thinkers usually reject the popular claim that technology is essentially "value free" or "amoral", that it is merely a set of tools which can be used for either good or evil. Instead, they argue that certain technologies have an inherent tendency to reinforce or undermine particular values. In particular, they argue that some technologies foster social/class alienation, environmental degradation, and spiritual dissipation, though they are always marketed as uniformly positive by the companies that make them. Neo-Luddites claim that technology is a force that may do any or all of the following: dehumanise and alienate people; destroy traditional cultures, societies, and family structure; pollute languages; reduce the need for person-to-person contact; alter the very definition of what it means to be human; or damage the evolved life-support systems of the Earth's entire biosphere so gravely as to cause human extinction.

The Islamic, Jewish, and Christian ideas of the Garden of Eden and Heaven may be interpreted as forms of utopianism, especially in their folk-religious forms. Such religious "utopias" are often described as "gardens of delight", implying an existence free from worry in a state of bliss or enlightenment. They postulate existences free from sin, pain, poverty and death, and often assume communion with beings such as angels or the houri. In a similar sense the Hindu concept of Moksha and the Buddhist concept of Nirvana may be thought of as a kind of utopia. In Hinduism or Buddhism, however, utopia is not a place but a state of mind. A belief that if we are able to practice meditation without continuous stream of thoughts, we are able to reach enlightenment. This enlightenment promises exit from the cycle of life and death, relating back to the concept of utopia.

However, the usual idea of Utopia, which is normally created by human effort, is more clearly evident in the use of these ideas as the bases for religious utopias, as members attempt to establish/reestablish on Earth a society which reflects the virtues and values they believe have been lost or which await them in the Afterlife.

In the United States and Europe during the Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century and thereafter, many radical religious groups formed eutopian societies. They sought to form communities where all aspects of people's lives could be governed by their faith. Among the best-known of these eutopian societies was the Shaker movement, which originated in England in the 18th century but moved to America shortly after its founding. Other good examples are Fountain Grove, Riker's Holy City and 15 other Californian eutopian colonies between 1855 and 1955 (Hine), as well as Sointula in B.C., Canada and 15 other socialist and religious communities round the world, including Finnish "kolkhozes".

See also: End of the world (religion), Eschatology, and Millennialism

Satirical and Other Utopias

The adjective utopian has come into some disrepute and is frequently used contemptuously to mean impractical or impossibly visionary. The device of describing a utopia in satire or for the exercise of wit is almost as old as the serious utopia. The satiric device goes back to such comic utopias as that of Aristophanes in The Birds.

 

18th & 19th Century Methods for change

In the 18th-century Enlightenment, Jean Jacques Rousseau and others gave impetus to the belief that an ideal society—a Golden Age—had existed in the primitive days of European society before the development of civilization corrupted it. This faith in natural order and the innate goodness of humanity had a strong influence on the growth of visionary or utopian socialism. The end in view of these thinkers was usually an idealistic communism based on economic self-sufficiency or on the interaction of ideal communities. Saint-Simon, Étienne Cabet, Charles Fourier, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon in France and Robert Owen in England are typical examples of this sort of thinker. Actual experiments in utopian social living were tried in Europe and the United States, but for the most part the efforts were neither long-lived nor more than partially successful.

The rationalists of the Enlightenment who helped prepare the way for the revolutions of 1776 and 1789 did not produce any recognized utopian classics. There were, however, utopian elements in variousworks, suchas Fénelon's Adventures of Telemachus (1699), Montesquieu's Persian Letters (1721), the sketch of El Dorado in Voltaire's Candide (1759), and Condorcet's Esquisse (1794), that were influential at the time.

Rationalism did bring a new view on utopia as a logical result of science and progress, somewhat like Virgil did. The change, that came about through the scientific revolution, has it counterpart in society. Revolution may be a movement of dramatic change, but it requires organisation. Change can also happen via diplomacy, dissent, representation, reform, petition and manifesto. In order to overturn or effect the existing order it is necessary to work to some degree within or upon the institutions and systems of that order.

The founding fathers of America believed they could create a better world. Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) was a major figure of his time. He was known chiefly as statesman, international diplomat and writer, but was also a celebrated scientist, inventor, and businessman. His life summed up the spirit of his age. He devoted his energy and reason to a combination of statecraft, effective management and technical invention. His utopian vision was both ambitious and realistic, his ideas rooted in his belief in reason and democratic freedom.

Franklin was at the heart of the American struggle for independence from the British rule. His original vision was that the colonies should become part of a greater union with Britain, and that all peoples should be equal.
In 1766 Franklin helped Thomas Jefferson to draft the American Declaration of Independence, and was then sent to Paris to persuade the French to support the American colonies in their fight for independence from Britain. He remained in France for many years as his country's representative.

19th century Earthly Utopias

In the 19th century, at a time of massive industrial growth, Robert Owen and Titus Salt, both industrialists and reformers, set up model communities to house the workers at their textile mills. These experimental communities are often referred to as socialist utopias. Owen's New Lanark, in central Scotland and Salt's Saltaire, in West Yorkshire were self-contained communities built around textile mills. Workers were given a better quality of life than was available elsewhere.

The backdrop to these small-scale social experiments was a growing emphasis on human rights, equality and democracy. The commentator Henry MacNab visited the Scottish Mill community of New Lanark and wrote a full account of Robert Owen's pioneering work on social welfare and community living in his book 'The New Views of Mr Owen of Lanark' (1819). He was particularly interested in Robert Owen's strict, but reformist approach to discipline. Owen adopted a carrot and stick approach. Employees could, for example, be dismissed for failing to turn up to work or for other offences which today would warrant a lesser punishment. His intention was to reward honesty and hard work as well as punish wrong doing. Drunkenness and deceitful behaviour were not tolerated.

 

Scientific and technological utopia

See also: hedonistic imperative, transhumanism, technological singularity, abolitionist society, techno-utopia, and Technocracy movement

Utopian flying machines of the previous century, France, 1890-1900 (chromolithograph trading card).

Utopian flying machines of the previous century, France, 1890-1900 (chromolithograph trading card).

These are set in the future, when it is believed that advanced science and technology will allow utopian living standards; for example, the absence of death and suffering; changes in human nature and the human condition. These utopian societies tend to change what "human" is all about. Technology has affected the way humans have lived to such an extent that normal functions, like sleep, eating or even reproduction, has been replaced by an artificial means. Other kinds of this utopia envisioned, include a society where humans have struck a balance with technology and it is merely used to enhance the human living condition (e.g. Star Trek). In place of the static perfection of a utopia, libertarian transhumanists envision an "extropia", an open, evolving society allowing individuals and voluntary groupings to form the institutions and social forms they prefer.

Buckminster Fuller presented a theoretical basis for technological utopianism and set out to develop a variety of technologies ranging from maps to designs for cars and houses which might lead to the development of such a utopia.

One notable example of a technological and libertarian socialist utopia is Scottish author Iain M. Banks' Culture.

A variation on this theme was found earlier in the theories of eugenics. Believing that many traits were hereditary in nature, the eugenists believed that not only healthier, more intelligent race could be bred, but many other traits could be selected for, including "talent", or against, including drunkness and criminality. This called for "positive eugenics" encouraging those with good genes to have children, and "negative eugenics" discouraging those with bad genes, or preventing them altogether by confinement or forcible sterilization.

Opposing this optimism is the prediction that advanced science and technology will, through deliberate misuse or accident, cause environmental damage or even humanity's extinction. Critics advocate precautions against the premature embrace of new technologies.

French Utopia’s

In France (neglecting an isolated effort in 1616, the anonymous Huguenot Royaume d'Antangil), a tradition of Utopian fiction developed during the early Enlightenment.

The pattern was fixed in the 1670s by the inventions of
Foigny and Veiras, both set in the as-yet unexplored southern continent. Tyssot de Patot'sAustral Land’ resembles Veiras's, as does the Saharan society found in the anonymous Mémoires de Gaudence de Lucques (1746). Other minor works (those by Gilbert, Lesconvel, and Lassay deserve mention) vary the geography and other details, but not the assumption that reason can satisfy human nature by devising a prosperous society, carefully regulated, having social and sexual equality (within limits), and free from European miseries such as war.

More influential were works not strictly speaking Utopian, but containing Utopian episodes, above all Fénelon's
Télémaque, imitated by his disciple Ramsay (Voyages de Cyrus) and by Terrasson (Séthos). Montesquieu's regenerated Troglodytes, in the Lettres persanes, and perhaps even the Eldoradans of Candide, are also Fénelonian. The critical potential of Utopia was also exploited: vigorously in La Hontan's idealized, anti-European Native American society, more mildly in Marivaux's stage Utopia L' Île des esclaves, and with humour, as regards religion and sex, in Diderot's Tahiti ( Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville).

After 1750, as freedom of publication increased, political idealism was expressed more overtly, in treatises rather than fiction.
Morelly's Utopian epic, La Basiliade, was followed by his Code de la nature, legislating for a propertyless society. Both Rousseau's Contrat social and (more justifiably) the domestic, rural society of Clarens in La Nouvelle Héloïse, can be considered Utopian. Mercier's L'An 2440 broke new ground by putting an improved Paris into the future; it contains much direct criticism of the present, as does Restif's L'An 2000. During the Revolution, the real re-creation of society swamped the Utopian variety. The next 50 years saw the expression of what Marx disdainfully called ‘Utopian socialism’ in Saint-Simon and Fourier; Cabet expressed it traditionally, with sentimental trappings, in his Voyage en Icarie.

Communes

The English and French word "commune" appears in Latin records in various forms. The classical Latin communio means an association. In some cases the classical Latin commune was used to mean people with a common interest. Ultimately, the roots are cum (with or together) + munire (to wall), literally 'to wall together' (i.e., a shared fortification). More frequently the Low Latin communia was used from which the Romance commune was derived. When independence of rule was won through violent uprising and overthrow, they were often called conspiratio.

Communes in Europe in the Middle Ages were sworn allegiances of mutual defense (both physical defense and of traditional freedoms) among community members of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread phenomenon. They had the greater development in central-northern Italy, where they were real city-states based on partial democracy.

During the 10th century in several parts of Western Europe, peasants with a special craft beyond the immediate requirements of their isolated village, or with a self-reliant spirit, began to gravitate towards the walled towns. In central and northern Italy, and in Provence and Septimania, the Roman cities had almost all survived—even if grass grew in their streets—largely as administrative centers for a diocese or for the local representative of a distant kingly or imperial power. In the Low Countries, some new towns were founded upon long-distance trade[1], where the staple was the woolen cloth-making industry. The sites for these ab ovo towns, more often than not, were the fortified burghs of counts, bishops or territorial abbots. Such towns were also founded in the Rhineland. Other towns were simply market villages, local centers of exchange.

Such townspeople needed physical protection from lawless nobles and bandits, part of the motivation for gathering behind communal walls, but the struggle to establish their liberties, the freedom to conduct and regulate their own affairs and security from arbitrary taxation and harassment from the bishop, abbot or count in whose jurisdiction these obscure and ignoble social outsiders lay, was a long process of struggling to obtain charters that guaranteed such basics as the right to hold a market. Such charters were often purchased at exorbitant rates, or granted, not by the local power, which was naturally jealous of prerogatives, but by the king or the emperor, who came thereby to hope to enlist the towns as allies in the struggle to centralize power that was arising in tandem with the rise of the communes. "The burghers of the tenth and eleventh centuries were ruthlessly harassed, blackmailed, subjected to oppressive taxes and humiliated. This drove the bourgeois back upon their own resources, and it accounts for the intensely corporate and excessively organized character of medieval cities." (Cantor 1993 p 231)

The walled city represented protection from direct assault at the price of corporate interference on the pettiest levels, but once a townsman left the city walls, he (for women scarcely traveled) was at the mercy of often violent and lawless nobles in the countryside. Because much of medieval Europe lacked central authority to provide protection, each city had to provide its own protection for citizens both inside the city walls, and outside. Thus towns formed communes, a legal basis for turning the cities into self-governing corporations. Although in most cases the development of communes was connected with that of the cities, there were rural communes, notably in France and England, that were formed to protect the common interests of villagers.

Every town had its own commune and no two communes were alike, but at their heart, communes were sworn allegiances of mutual defense. When a commune was formed, all participating members gathered and swore an oath in a public ceremony, promising to defend each other in times of trouble, and to maintain the peace within the city proper.

What did it mean for a commune member to defend another? Obviously if a commune member was attacked outside the city, it was too late to call for help, as it would be unlikely anyone would be around in time. Instead, the commune would promise to exact revenge on the attacker, the threat of revenge being a form of defense. However, if the attacker was a noble, safely ensconced in a castle (as was often the case), the town commune could not muster the forces to attack him directly; instead they might attack the noble's family, burn his crops, kill his serfs, or destroy his orchards in retribution.

The commune movement started in the 10th century, with a few earlier ones like Forlì (possibly 889), and gained strength in the 11th century in northern Italy which had the most urbanized population of Europe at the time. It then spread in the early 12th century to France, Germany and Spain and elsewhere. The English state was already very centralized, so the communal movement mainly manifested itself in parishes, craftsmen's and merchants' guilds and monasteries. State officialdom expanded in England and France from the 12th century onwards, while the Holy Roman Empire was ruled by communal coalitions of cities, knights, farmer republics, prince-bishops and the large domains of the imperial lords.

According to an English cleric of the late 10th century, society was composed of the three orders: those who fight, pray and work (the nobles, the clergy and peasants). In theory this was a balance between spiritual and secular peers with the third order providing for the other two. The urban communes were a break in this order. The Church and King both had mixed reactions to communes. On the one hand, they agreed safety and protection from lawless nobles was in everyone's best interest. The communes intention was to keep the peace through the threat of revenge, and the Church was sympathetic to the end result of peace. However, the Church had their own ways to enforce peace, such as the Peace and Truce of God movement, for example. On the other hand, communes disrupted the order of medieval society; the methods the commune used, eye for an eye, violence begets violence, were generally not acceptable to Church or King. Furthermore, there was a sense that communes threatened the medieval social order. Only the noble lords were allowed by custom to fight, and ostensibly the merchant townspeople were workers, not warriors. As such, the nobility and the clergy sometimes accepted communes, but other times did not. One of the most famous cases of a commune being suppressed and the resulting defiant urban revolt occurred in the French town of Laon in 1112.

The development of medieval rural communes arose more from a need to collaborate to manage the commons than out of defensive needs. In times of a weak central government, communes typically formed to ensure the safety on the roads (Landfriede) through their territory, to enable commerce.

The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1789 until 1795, and especially from 1792 until 1795. Established in the Hôtel de Ville just after the storming of the Bastille, the Commune became insurrectionary in the summer of 1792, essentially refusing to take orders from the central French government. On the night of August 9, 1792 a new revolutionary Commune took possession of the Hôtel de Ville; the next day insurgents assailed the Tuileries, where the royal family resided. During the ensuing constitutional crisis, the collapsing Legislative Assembly of France was heavily dependent on the Commune for the effective power that allowed it to continue to function as a legislature. The all-powerful Commune demanded custody of the royal family, imprisoning them in the Temple fortress. A list of "opponents of the Revolution" was drawn up, the gates to the city were sealed, and on August 28 the citizens were subjected to domiciliary visits, ostensibly in a search for muskets. By the evening of the 31st, every prison in Paris was full to overflowing, and on September 2 the massacres in the prisons commenced.

The Paris Commune (French: La Commune de Paris) was a government that briefly ruled Paris from 18 March (more formally from 26 March) to 28 May 1871. It existed before the split between Anarchists and Socialists, and is hailed by both as the first seizure of power by the working class. Debates over its policies and outcome contributed to the break between those two political groups.

In a formal sense the Paris Commune was simply the local authority (council of a town or district — French "commune") which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. But the conditions in which it was formed, its controversial decrees and tortured end make it one of the more important political episodes of the time.

Communism

The ideals of communism were and are definitely utopian, although Marx accepted that in order to achieve this utopian level of sharing and equility a long struggle and period of inequality was to be expected and necessary.

Communism is a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production and property in general. It is usually considered to be a branch of socialism a broad group of social and political ideologies, which draws on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, although socialist historians say they are older Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems believed to be inherent with capitalist economies and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. Communism states that the only way to solve these problems would be for the working class, or proletariat, to replace the wealthy bourgeoisie, which is currently the ruling class, in order to establish a peaceful, free society, without classes, or government. The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and Trotskyism are based on Marxism, but non-Marxist versions of communism (such as Christian communism and anarchist communism) also exist and are growing in importance since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Communism is the idea of a free society with no division or alienation, where mankind is free from oppression and scarcity. A communist society would have no governments, countries, or class divisions. In Marxism-Leninism, Socialism is the intermediate system between capitalism and communism, when the government is in the process of changing the means of ownership from privatism, to collective ownership. According to the Marxist argument for communism, the main characteristic of human life in class society is alienation; and communism is desirable because it entails the full realization of human freedom. Marx here follows Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in conceiving freedom not merely as an absence of restraints but as action with content. In the popular slogan that was adopted by the communist movement, communism was a world in which each gave according to their abilities, and received according to their needs. The German Ideology (1845) was one of Marx's few writings to elaborate on the communist future:

"In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic."

Following the proletariats' defeat of capitalism, a new classless society would emerge based on the idea: 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs'. In such a society, land, industry, labour and wealth would be shared between all people. All people would have the right to an education, and class structures would disappear. Harmony would reign, and the state would simply 'wither away'.

The word commune now usually  refers to an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes.

The planned communities which began in the 1960s and later have changed considerably. Today most people are seeking to create a new type of community where the housing is more affordable and the people who are members are already known to you. People who create and reside in the communities are seeking a return to a better way of life. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community's Online Communities Directory.

New World Order Utopia

Or just Utopia is a movement newly formed in America in 2007 led by 9th Life Enlightened Buddha Daniel Christoph. It follows a 10 step idealogy to be used as a guideline to drafting a New World Order Law. The guidelines are as follows:

1. We must do away with all form of monetary funds; we are just supplying a service.

2. We must do away with competition. Company A and Company B are making the same thing. There is simply no point.

3. The issue of a practical energy source. We need to develop other sources of energy in lieu of eventually getting of this planet.

4. We should initially refurbish housing of all to pleasing and acceptable standards then for every family unit to inhabit equitable residences.

5. We develop a free universal health care system.

6. The issue of the penal system. Prisons need to be less cruel and inhumane.

7. Education is free.

8. Our world governments shall dissolve under the above system concentrating a great extent on space exploration in lieu of the fact that Earth will not last forever.

9. The above steps will allow for an alleviated workload on ourselves meaning our times of labor will be cut in half if we wish.

10. Lastly not least, the above will allow us for more time to create a world of art.

 

Finding utopia

All these myths also express some hope that the idyllic state of affairs they describe is not irretrievably and irrevocably lost to mankind, that it can be regained in some way or other.

One way would be to look for the earthly paradise -- for a place like Shangri-La, hidden in the Tibetan mountains and described by James Hilton in his Utopian novel Lost Horizon (1933). Such paradise on earth must be somewhere if only man were able to find it. Christopher Columbus followed directly in this tradition in his belief that he had found the Garden of Eden when, towards the end of the 15th century, he first encountered the New World and its peoples.

Another way of regaining the lost paradise (or Paradise Lost, as 17th century English poet John Milton calls it) would be to wait for the future, for the return of the Golden Age. According to Christian theology, man's Fall from Paradise, caused by man alone when he disobeyed God ("but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it"), has resulted in the wickedness of character that all human beings have been born with since ("Original Sin") such as Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four became the primary method of Utopian expression and rejection. (Kumar 1987)

Still, post-war era also found some Utopianist fiction for some future harmonic state of humanity (e.g. Demolition Man (film)).

In a scientific approach to finding utopia, The Global scenario group, an international group of scientists founded by Paul Raskin, used scenario analysis and backcasting to map out a path to an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable future. Its findings suggest that a global citizens movement is necessary to steer political, economic, and corporate entities toward this new sustainability paradigm.

Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston is the title of a seminal book by Ernest Callenbach, published in 1975. The society described in the book is one of the first ecological utopias and was influential on the counterculture, and the green movement in the 1970s and after. The importance of this book is not so much to be found in its literary form, as in the lively imagination of an alternative and ecologically sound lifestyle on a greater scale, presented more or less realistically. It expressed on paper the dream of an alternative future held by many in the movements of the 1970s and later and thus has a distinct Californian New Age style. It is a vision of how California and West-Coast states could have developed following the seventies eco-wave and discoveries of that time. The human need for competition and excitement is, surprisingly seen the rather “soft”and humane approach elsewhere, given an outlet in socalled war games, events where groups of young men fight a rather bloody game.

The impressive, environmentally benign energy, homebuilding, and transportation technology Callenbach described in Ecotopia was based on research findings published in such journals as Scientific American. The author's story was woven using the fiber of technologies, lifestyles, folkways, and attitudes that were being reflected (from real-life experience) in the pages of, say, the Whole Earth Catalog and its successor CoEvolution Quarterly, as well as being depicted in newspaper stories, novels and films. Callenbach's main ideas for Ecotopian values and practices were based on actual experimentation taking place in the American West. As an example, Callenbach's fictional Crick School was based upon Pinel School, an alternative school outside Martinez, California once attended by his son.

The author’s Ecotopian concept does not reject high technology, but rather members of his fictional society show a conscious selectivity about technology, so that human health and sanity might be preserved, as also social and ecological health might be. For instance, Callenbach’s story anticipated the development and liberal usage of videoconferencing.

In the 1970s when Ecotopia was written and published “many prominent counterculture and new left thinkers decried the consumption and overabundance that they perceived as characteristic of post-World War Two America”. The citizens of Ecotopia were of the same mind, they were looking for a balance between themselves and nature. They were “literally sick of bad air, chemicalized food, and lunatic advertising. They turned to politics because it was finally the only route to self-preservation.” In the mid-20th century as “firms grew in size and complexity citizens needed to know the market would still serve the interests for those it claimed to exist”. Callenbach’s Ecotopia is a shot at the fact that many people did not feel the market and the government was serving them in the way they wanted them to. This book was “a protest against consumerism and materialism, among other aspects of American life”.

Examples of utopia

See also utopian and dystopian fiction

External links

Related terms