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Illustration from Thomas More's Utopia
Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

A utopia refers to the result or aim of any effort to make the world or humankind perfect. It derives from the book Utopia by Sir Thomas More (1516), about an ideal society where everybody is happy and has everything they need, although the concept is much older, particularly in religious writing.[1] In the original version of More's book, there was an addendum by More which in part said, "Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely my name is Eutopie, a place of felicitie".[2] "Eutopia" in Greek means "Good Place", while the near homophone Outopia means "No Place".

In many cases, the word "utopian" can be used as a snarl word. Marxists were accustomed to contrasting their "scientific" socialism with the pre-Marxist "utopian" socialist philosophies. It can also be applied by conservatives to liberal or leftist reformers with an equal amount of irony.

One drawback a utopian "planner" must deal with is that one person's utopia is often another person's Hell; another is that humans are flawed, and since society is populated and run by humans, it’s inevitable that society will be flawed as well; lastly, there are few utopian ideas that are not by now completely worn out.


  • The City of God (426 CE) by Augustine of Hippo sets out a contented, spiritual city in opposition to an evil earthly city of the flesh.[3]
  • Utopia (1516) by Thomas More
  • Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a British textile manufacturer who tried to construct model communities for his workers, such as New Lanark in central Scotland, where workers' children were educated, and workers could buy things at fair prices rather than be forced to shop at rip-off company stores.[4]
  • Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was an early utopian socialist thinker whose writings described a society where everybody would co-operate and live in harmony.[5]
  • Étienne Cabet (1788-1856) was a utopian socialist who described his ideal society in Voyage to Icaria (1840)[6]
  • Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888) set out a vision of a socialist society based on nationalization (which he confusingly called nationalism) and was a massive bestseller in the USA.[7]
  • A Modern Utopia (1905) by H. G. Wells described an ideal future society by a writer better known for nightmarish visions of the future. It proposed a society where energy was the currency, mechanization meant most people didn't need to work, and men and women were equal, with marriages lasting a few years unless children were produced. However, it was also based on an asceticism derived from Wells's idea of the samurai, including a ban on alcohol and drugs.[8]

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