Literary Utopian Societies

Literary Utopian Societies
“The vision of one century is often the reality of the next…” (Nelson 108). Throughout time, great minds have constructed their own visions of utopia. Through the study of utopias, one finds that these “perfect” societies have many flaws. For example, most utopias tend to have an authoritarian nature (Manuel 3). Also, another obvious imperfection found in the majority of utopias is that of a faulty social class system (Thomas 94). But one must realized that the flaws found in utopian societies serve a specific purpose. These faults are used to indicate problems in contemporary society (Eurich 5, Targowski 1). Over the years, utopian societies have been beneficial in setting improved standards for society. By pointing out the faults of society, improvement is the most likely next step. Citizens should take advantage of utopian literature in order to better future societal conditions (Nelson 104). Because it is impossible to create a perfect society in which everyone’s needs can be met, society must analyze utopias in order to improve their existing environment.
Plato’s Republic was the first “true” work considered to be utopian literature. In fact, the Republic influenced almost all later text written on the subject of utopia (Manuel 7). Although the Republic was one of the most influential works in utopian literature, the society that it represented also had many obvious flaws. First, Plato’s utopia had a distinct class system (Morely iii, Bloom xiii). The privileged class that ruled the society also enforced censorship in order to keep control over the Republic (Manuel 5). To perform all of the lowly tasks of the society, a system of slavery was enforced (Manuel 9). In addition, different forms of propaganda were used to keep the citizens in check (Manuel 5, Bloom xiv). The political and economic systems, in which the wealthy class controlled all the funds, were extremely restrictive (Mumford 4, Bloom xiii). With the society being in opposition to change, it would have obviously failed. A static society, in which propaganda is used to promote the State, disrupts the creative thinking process. And, without the creative thinking process, intellectual growth as a whole also slows (Mumford 4, Benz 3).
Yet another famous Utopian society that appears to thrive on the surface is that of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. More’s society was similar to Plato’s Republic in many ways (Will 1). The State, in More’s Utopia, controlled the masses through the use of propaganda just as in Plato’s Republic (Adams 154). Speaking out against the State was made an unthinkable action (Adams 253). The government of More’s Utopia was so centralized, that it was unable to adapt to changes and face problems (Mumford 4). This Utopia turned out to have a number of underlying problems.
Aldous Huxley’s a Brave New World was another utopia with many imperfections. In the novel, the characters living in utopia were under complete control of the government. They were exposed to propaganda beginning at birth and continued to be exposed to it throughout their lives. The course a person’s life would take was already determined before he was born. Basically, the citizens of this utopia were robots. They did as they were told, and they had no accurate knowledge of what was going on around them (26). Only the elite class of Controllers had an unobstructed view of the world (235). Another theme that was put forth throughout the novel was that of the class system. In Huxley’s utopia, the quality of one’s genes determined his social class. No person had a chance of leaving his caste, and his conditioning had programmed his mind into believing that this was all acceptable (66).
When looking at utopian literature as a whole, one realizes that utopias are merely a way that man uses to improve himself and the environment in which he lives (Eurich 7). The purpose of texts written about utopian societies is to inform the public of current social problems and to inform them how to fix these problems (Targowski 1). “Almost every utopia is an implicit criticism of the civilization that served as its background.” (Mumford 2). And with this criticism, positive change arises and sets us in another direction. Utopias give people examples on how to improve our society (Eurich 7). While utopias