Digest of terms

utopianism

notion of an ideal society, first developed in Plato's Republic (remarkably hierarchical in structure) and set out in the book envisioning 'the highest state of a republic in the new island of Utopia' by Thomas More in 1516. The notion is critical of the present state of society, and this tradition of literary critique has continued, eg in the satire of Swift's Gulliver's Travels or the novels by Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and George Orwell (1984). Attempts to give social and political reality to the ideal are evident in such instances as the early Christian church in Jerusalem (Acts 2), Protestant revolutionary movements in Europe and N America (Diggers, Mennonites, Shakers), secular initiatives associated with Robert Owen or Jewish kibbutzim in Israel, and early Maoist programmes in China. The ambiguity of the word 'utopia' meaning either 'nowhere' or 'ideal' (depending on whether the 'u' is 'ou' or 'eu' in its Greek etymological origin) serves as a basis for another description: 'illusory'.

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