This book includes the three basic utopian texts and a little bit of an explanatory appendix (all in German btw). After diving into some dystopian fiction in October, I was interested to see what the optimistic viewpoint of the future in an ideal state might look like.
For all of you who are interested in more detail, I am going to write a few sentences to each text separately (still trying to keep it short), but if someone simply wants a final conclusion, feel free to jump right to the last paragraph of this post right below the picture.
Thomas Morus – Utopia
This is THE utopian text, I mean it is eponymous for the whole genre and by far the longest and most elaborated one. Utopia starts out alright, but soon goes downhill, because what ideal state depends on slaves? Or what ideal state has the need to train even children for battle and actually send them into combat? What ideal state has to limit the freedom of travel for it’s citizens? And so on. The more you think about Utopia, the more of a nightmare this state becomes.
Tommaso Campanella – The City of the Sun
This is the most radical communist state I have ever read about. Everything is shared here. Everything. The funny (or creepy) thing about this text is the extend of Campanellas theory about reproduction and how men and women are matched to produce the best offspring possible. These parts were weird to read, but when I found out that Campanella was actually a monk, it started to make sense, because he obviously had only a very slight idea what he was talking about here.
Francis Bacon – New Atlantis
This is probably the worst state I can possibly imagine; it is only a fragment though, because Bacon died before he could complete his notion of the ideal society. Basically, New Atlantis worships science and this goes so far as building automats and artificial humans (whatever that exactly meant I am not sure), but the thing is, that knowledge is strictly limited to a small elitist group of people and no one else has access to it. New Atlantis has a lot of science, but a complete lack of humanities. Remember that picture from the internet?
All in all it is quite hard to imagine the perfect society in the perfect state, because it seems that for every positive quality, you have to sacrifice a part of your personal freedom. From our modern perspective, all of these three states seem absolutely inhumane and unjust (for instance talking about privilege of higher classes – why would you even need classes in an ideal state?) – and you definitely do not want to be a woman living in any of these communities (surprise).
By stripping the population of their individuality, privacy, families and every means of communication with the outside, the state basically forces them to be happy with what they’ve got. If I learned anything from reading these three texts, it is that I can now no longer clearly distinguish between an utopian and a dystopian state, because the line between those two is a very blurry one.