“ [A] permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon. ”
The history of utopian literature is extensive, even if we take the term in the strict sense of a detailed description of a nation or commonwealth ordered according to a system which the author proposes as a better way of life than any known to exist, a system that could be instituted if the present one could be cancelled and people could start over. Before More's 1516 Utopia, the number of elaborately designed utopian commonwealths is small. Most of the writings along these lines are brief and many are misty, nostalgic, backward glances at an imagined primitive life in the "Golden Age." There is, of course, no lack of earlier literature criticizing the status quo. The great outpouring of utopian literature, however, came after More; and it cannot be doubted that his work gave great impetus to the movement.
The first lesson West learns is that all industry and all institutions are under the control of the national government, a system which, he is informed, has proved to be far more effective than the earlier one of free, private enterprise because of the elimination of wasteful competition. These enormous nationwide political and industrial institutions are structured on the plan of a military organization.
Gattaca is a science fiction film directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It depicts the life in the futuristic dystopian Earth society, in which quality genetic makeup controls the destiny of every person. The main protagonist Vincent was born in an old-fashioned way. He is seen as genetically inferior and is doomed to a life of servitude. He tries to change his destiny by buying identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a potential swimming star whose career ended in a car accident.
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887. Published in 1888, Bellamy’s novel imagining a perfect future society spawned a nationwide movement in America. (It also predicted electronic broadcasting and credit cards.) Bellamy’s plan for a ‘cloud palace for an ideal humanity’ also helped to inspire the garden city movement in the US and the UK. The best edition is Looking Backward 2000-1887 (Oxford World’s Classics).
It is mainly (or only) the slaves who kill for the Utopians, but it did not require any killing to become a slave. In fact, "the most serious crimes" (unstated, but clearly not only murder) are punished by "servitude" (slavery). "If slaves are rebellious or unruly, then they are finally slaughtered like wild beasts that cannot be restrained by bars or chains." On the other hand, if they are "tamed by long suffering and show that they regret the sin more than the punishment, their servitude may be either mitigated or revoked, sometimes by the ruler's prerogative, sometimes by popular vote." (100)
The reports of the above books must not be regarded as reviews of them as literary works. They are all cast in novel form with a plot line and cast of characters. Our study is concerned only with those aspects that throw light on the concepts of society reshaped. In each case it is fair to say that the author has concentrated more attention on the "brave new world" concept than on the accompanying romantic fiction.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon. This hugely inventive 1872 satire by the author of the anti-Victorian novel The Way of All Flesh is perhaps more accurately described as ‘anti-utopian’, though it follows the utopian narrative structure. The fictional land of Erewhon – almost ‘nowhere’ backwards – is the setting for this novel. Among the things satirised by Butler in this book is the rise of the machines, which Butler argues will evolve at an ever-faster rate – along the lines of Darwinian evolution – until the machines eventually overtake humans.