Problem

Utopianism

Other Names:
Over-utopian visions
Escapist utopias
Nature:
Utopianism is a persistent tradition of thought about the perfect society, in which perfection is defined as harmony.
Background:
Although the actual term is from a 16th century book by Sir Thomas More and means 'nowhere', the ideal of utopianism dates from the earliest records and occurs throughout the history of philosophical writing, including the Bible stories of man in the Golden Age, man in an Arcadian state of nature.
Claim:
1. Utopia is the ideology of revolt, of religious and political aspiration, of apocalyptic and messianic dreams, of the future.

2. The weaknesses of the ideologies are better perceived through the concrete systems in which they are trying to affirm themselves. Bureaucratic socialism, technocratic capitalism and authoritarian democracy are showing how difficult it is to solve the great human problem of living together in justice and equality. How in fact could they escape the materialism, egoism or constraint which inevitably go with them? This is the source of a protest which is springing up more or less everywhere, as a sign of a deep-seated sickness, while at the same time we are witnessing the rebirth of what it is agreed to call "utopias". These claim to resolve the political problem of modern societies better than the ideologies. It would be dangerous to disregard this. The appeal to a utopia is often a convenient excuse for those who wish to escape from concrete tasks in order to take refuge in an imaginary world. To live in a hypothetical future is a facile alibi for rejecting immediate responsibilities. But it must clearly be recognized that this kind of criticism of existing society often provokes the forward-looking imagination both to perceive in the present the disregarded possibility hidden within it, and to direct itself towards a fresh future; it thus sustains social dynamism by the confidence that it gives to the inventive powers of the human mind and heart; and, if it refuses no overture, it can also meet the Christian appeal. (Papal Writings, 14 May 1971).

Counter Claim:
No society fully understands itself and its potential. Therefore what appears over-utopian may be realizable, whereas what appears realistic may be impossible to achieve. Utopian visions, even when not realizable, may therefore bring about meaningful changes. Indeed, whether adopted by political movements or not, they may constitute a main mode of human evolution which should not be constrained by feasibility assessments.
Related Problems:
Malignant visions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
10.04.1999 – 00:00 CEST