Utopia is a name that was coined by Thomas More in the writing of his book about Utopia which was published in 1516. Initially, according to the novel; Utopia is an imaginary country with an orderly, perfect and reasonable social set up. Utopia’s environs (Nolandia, Aircastle and Tallstoria) have a similar kind of social arrangement according to the novel. The imaginary country has religious tolerance, land that is communally owned with no private property and equality in education for all women and men. The novel’s main message seems to be the need for discipline and social order rather freedom and liberty. The word utopia means ‘no place land’ and may have been used by More because the described utopian state did not exist in the real world.
The Utopian concept originated from Thomas More’s novel and later came to take the connotation of any idealized state that did not exist in the real world. More used the ideal society as a platform whose basis would be to discuss the problems existent during his period. The utopian concept later led to the development of a similar but opposite concept known as dystopia which is alternatively known as anti-utopia or cacotopia. Dystopia is a negative version of utopia which connotes a state whose society has extensively degraded into an oppressive, controlled state. A dystopian state is characterized by massive poverty, oppression and disparities of all nature. The characteristics of dystopia are typical of a dictatorial state and unlike utopia; dystopia does not have a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The two opposite concepts depict states of governance that humanity desires to have and have not. The term utopia has in present times taken on a loose meaning that denotes anything that is idealized and may not be realizable in the real world.
The utopian concept has been behind the search for ideal states all over the world. In America this is exemplified by Thomas Jefferson’s declaration for independence. The declaration was written at a time when America (a British colony) wanted to liberate itself from the leadership of England’s monarchy. Jefferson’s declaration and statements about the ideal state that America should be under independent terms can be likened to the Utopian society described by Thomas More. Thomas’ utopian society and the book that contains it are almost similar to Jefferson’s declaration about America. However, Jefferson’s declaration about America has a more realistic stand in comparison to the utopian state by Thomas More.
The utopian state ideals are that ownership of land and property is communal and almost every activity is carried out on a communal basis. Slavery is recognized as a feature in the utopian state. The utopian state was also totally tolerant to all religious groups. The ideals of the society of utopia are concerned with the making of a better and simple life for all society members. Equality is recognized as the central principle in the utopian state (Olin, 46). The Communal ownership and engagement in activities in utopia is reminiscent of communist states where everything is communally owned and done.
On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson’s declaration entailed the quest of America to be liberated from the leadership of England’s monarchy. The declaration does not detail outlines on how life should be conducted in America. The document details about few basic human rights that Americans should be entitled to have. It also details the liberation of America and its right to openly declare its independence. Jefferson’s declaration is different from utopia because it dwells solely on issues of liberty and basic human rights. Thomas More’s book can thus be likened to Thomas Jefferson’s declaration of independence on the aspect of freeing oneself from oppressive leadership (‘Declaration of independence’, n.pag). However, there is a difference because the declaration by Jefferson was an achievable goal whereas; More’s utopian state was an ideal situation that would be hard to realize in its totality.
World peace is often a utopian state that all nations in the world would wish to attain. This global utopia is however, very elusive due to inherent differences in men. These differences may be religious, racial, political, social or economic in nature. The differences act as a barrier towards achieving world peace because people have different opinions and ideas. The attainment of world peace may only be possible under environments that have utopian principles where all people will have act and think in a similar manner. Realization of world peace is utopian because the ideal conditions of having similar thought and action are not attainable. Thomas More’s utopian society has complete tolerance to religion a feature that is not possible to realize in today’s actual society. The realization of utopian ideas can only be done by the use of force and mandatory orders because not all people in society can conform to the utopian ideas (Manuel, 76).
Eternal life in heaven is one of the famous Christian utopias. The Adam and Eve expulsion from the Garden of Eden symbolized failure of man. Man fell short of God’s glory and was thus thrown out from his utopian state. Since time immemorial man still struggles to reach an ideal life in heaven based on his beliefs.
The problem about most utopias is that they only concentrate on the positive end results but never give opinions how to get things done or ideas rolled out to the ground. Utopian socialism presumes that the vision behind the utopia is sufficient to realize the idealized state. Thomas More writes about the state of utopia but does not detail the principles and ideas that were used in the creation of the state. These inherent weaknesses in most utopias make them remain utopias and not realizable ideas (Hufford, n.pag).Thomas Jefferson’s declaration is a good example of utopian ideologies that can be realized because it details a plan of action.
The theme of utopia has a positive and negative side. The positive aspect is that a person can be part of a movement to liberate people from oppression, injustice and economic disparities. This is an addictive exhilarating part of utopia that mostly ends up in the neglect of the initial idealism. This is because most utopians adopt a seemingly messianic image of the world (Hufford, n.pag).
‘Declaration of independence’. A rough draft of the declaration of independence, 2010. Web. . Retrieved from http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/declaration-of-independence-rough-draft.html, on 16th June, 2010.
Hufford, Larry. The dangers of Utopia. 2009. Web. Retrieved from < http://periodicos.uem.br/ojs/index.php/EspacoAcademico/article/viewFile/7244/4156>, on 16th June, 2010.
Manuel, Frank and Manuel, Fritzie. Utopian Thought in the Western World. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers,1979. Print.
Olin, C. John. Interpreting Thomas More's Utopia.FordhamUniversity Press, 1989. Print.