Is this the way to utopia? / Niklas Bugelnig & Tobias Stenico

06 22nd, 2018


Can you remember the first time you heard about “Utopia”? Is it something like a city or more like a country? Or even another planet? Right! It’s all of it and even more! 

But to make things clear: 

In 1516 Sir Thomas More was the first one to use the word when he wrote his novel “Utopia” in which he started questioning the possibility of a perfect world, where society would suffer no wars or insecurities, a place where everyone would prosper and fulfill both individual and collective ambitions. Yet such a perfect society can only exist with the creation of perfect built infrastructure. His notion of Utopia comes from the ancient Greek: οὐ („not“) and τόπος („place“) and means „no-place“. The central questions in his novel are: How should the perfect political system be? What manners and statutes are necessary to distinguish a peaceful and human society? And how to manage that without money and private property? On his fictive island Utopia, there are 54 cities, every single one spacious and splendid, in exact conformity to language, customs, institutions and laws. At the heart of the island lies the capital Amaurotum. There is democracy, but according to the ancient model women and slaves have no voice: 30 households each elect representatives, who in turn elect a prince and his advisers. The lifelong prince does not indulge in pomp, but he is dressed like the other inhabitants of the island. The stone houses in the cities have three floors and gardens and are always open for everyone. They would even exchange their houses every ten years. The state creates conditions so that everyone can live equally and happy together, because when there is no private property, one seriously pursues the public interests. There wouldn’t be poor people or beggars and when nobody owns anything, all are rich. 

Anyway, with his partly playful novel, More coined the notion of Utopia in political philosophy. 

Left parties and ecologists keep hold of the meaning of social models. Without utopias, or without ideal conceptions, progress would stop and politics would degenerate into pragmatism. They believe a better world is possible, but only with an imagination of it. 

Since then, there were many ideas of what this perfect society and the perfect world would look like and it became very popular when the 20th century came in. 

„Futurism is always some two-faced figure. One side looking ahead and one side looking behind. It seems like things that are ahead of us are always something positive and regressive while things which are laying behind us are inherently bad and regressive. “(Blauvelt,2015, p.13) 

It is not always easy to distinguish utopianism from futurism. In any case, one could say that both movements are dealing with an idea of the future, both driven by progress, both technically. This enthusiasm for technical development drove artists, architects and sociologists to present their vision of the future. In futurism, the social component, which means the improvement of social conditions, usually remains missing, while utopian focus being placed more on them, or the technical component of Utopia promoting these (social conditions). 


Comments are closed.