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Utopias are generally said to be societies in which the political,
social and economic troubles hampering its inhabitants has been done away with.
Instead the state is there to serve the people and ensure the peacefulness and
happiness of everyone. The word utopia, which means "no place" in Greek, was
first used to mean a perfect society in 1516 in the publication of Saint Thomas
More's story "Utopia". The story depicted life as it was with its people and
social institutions on an imaginary island. More's Utopia gained critical
acclaim and a wide audience. The term was subsequently used by all prominent
social thinkers and visionaries to define other concepts of this kind.
During the 19th century many attempts were made to actually establish
communities which followed the beliefs of a utopian society. Most were
experiments in utopian socialism. Although they differed considerably in their
specific views, most of them agreed that ideal societies could be created
without much difficulty. They felt all that was needed was to have the
formation of a few small, cooperative communities made up of their followers.
The comte de Saint-Simon regarded technological progress and large scale
economic organization as being the most important keys to the establishment of
these communities. It was felt that industrial growth was the key to happiness
for people in the future.
Another visionary, Fourier, was quite the opposite of Saint-Simon. He
Spoke strongly against the use of industry. His opinion was that agricultural
communities would be better suited for this situation. He favored these
communities as he saw them as small, self-sufficient and more importantly, free
from the restraints that were being imposed by civilization.
Experimental societies based on the theories of the utopians were also
set up in Europe and the Unites States. They included Robert Owen's cooperative
communities in New Harmony, lnd., and New Lanark, Scotland. Most of these did
not survive long. One of the longer lasting of these communities was the Oneida
Community. It lasted from 1848 to 1881. By the middle of the 19th century the
utopian socialists were beginning to be eclipsed by more militant radical
movements. These included anarchism and Marxism.
In more modern times, utopianism has more frequently been used to
suggest a naive and impractical approach to reality. Most comes by way of
literature with stories such as a way to expose modern societies social ills.
Some prominent examples of this type of writing include George Orwell's 1984 and
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World".
The places mentioned in those stories were all imaginary. Such a place
does not exist in the world as we know it today. Therefore the word imaginary
comes into play. I have heard of places that have experimented with the concept
of a utopian environment but none have truly succeeded. One example is the
community in Chicago which George Pullman attempted to control. He attempted to
create a community in which every person was taken care for, all had adequate
housing, medical attention and so forth. In return everyone would work for
Pullman's company. The better he provided for his workers, the better he
expected their attitude towards working for him would be. Not everything turned
out as planned though. A panic in 1893 lead to Pullman lowering the employees
wages, he did not however lower the employees rent and other charges in the
company town. This lead to what was called the Pullman strike. The anticipated
utopia had turned into a dystopia. (A dystopia would be the exact opposite of a
utopia.) Federal troops arrived on July 4th to try to control the unrest.
Rioting broke out and several strikers were killed. It wasn't until July 10th
that the troops were able to control the situation.
The word utopia however does not necessarily have to be used to define a
society. A utopia can also be used to define a certain situation as it is
perceived by an individual. A person who feels tha...
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