The term utopia refers to an ideal or place in which all aspects are perfect or nearly so. The concept name was created by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as the title of his book, Utopia, was a fictional description of an island that had the qualities of perfection. The opposite of the term utopia is dystopia, which can be seen in the work by George Orwell in the book 1984 or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
The term utopia was originally a description for a social environment, and has manifested in many ways. The idea of “world peace” is considered utopian in nature, and United States' communes were attempts at utopian ways of living.
Though utopia has been a concept enveloping social ideas, it can be used in other ways:
- Ecological utopia - a utopian society is one that works in harmony with nature.
- Economic utopia - utopian idealism took off after the 18th century, Those seeking economic utopia are partially responsible for the development of commercialism and capitalism, although they were combined with some socialist characteristics in the early 19th century.
- Religious utopia - religious utopias exist in concept, both as intra-religious ideals as well as inter-religious.
- Scientific utopia - scientific utopias pertain to the idea of perfection in terms of living standards. Means of attempting to achieve utopia through science include ideas that omit death and suffering from life or that make the human condition one that is perfect.
- Technology utopia - technological utopian lifestyles would be those that replace human needs or functions with technology in such a way that humans have a higher quality of life.
Examples of Utopia, in various contexts, as represented through literature, art, popular culture, and other means include:
- The Garden of Eden which was aesthetically pleasing and in which there was “no knowledge of good and evil”
- Shangri-La, in James Hilton's Lost Horizon
- Datong, from the Chinese Classic of Rites
- Tao Yuanming's The Peach Blossom Spring which describes a beautiful secluded community not affected by the rest of the world.
- Ellis's description in Specimens of Early English Poets of the Land of Cockaigne in which “houses were made of barley sugar and cakes, the streets were paved with pastry...”
- The entire “Golden Age” as described by Hesiod a Greek poet who wrote Works and Days
- The depiction of the “Golden Age” in Lucas Cranach the Elder's artwork entitled The Golden Age
- The gender equality represented in feminist utopias through literature in Suzy McKee Charnas's Walk to the End of the World and Joanna Russ's The Female Man
Now you have seen lots of different examples of utopia. You can easily imagine your own examples of utopia by thinking of your idea of the perfect society or the perfect world.