|Name||201E19 Do we (still) need Political Utopias?|
|Department||Institut for Statskundskab|
|Course type||Tomplads Ordinær Udveksling|
|Course catalogue id||94193|
Description of qualifications:
Visions of an ideal society have existed ever since the dawn of human civilisation. The concept commonly used to describe such visions is “utopia.” The term was coined by Thomas More in his book “Utopia” (1516), where he combined the Greek words “ou” (not) and “topos” (place) to describe “a place that does not exist.” Taking More’s canonical work as point of departure, this seminar asks whether politics needs its utopias, or whether we should look to utopias with scepticism. Should politics be driven by perhaps unachievable ideals of the good society, or should it be about efficiently solving clearly definable policy problems? And what does the dark history of the major ideologies of the 20th century – fascism and communism – teach us about the value of utopias? Working from Bacon’s “New Atlantis” (1627) to Neville’s “The Isle of Pines” (1668), to 19th century utopian socialism and Karl Marx’s scathing critique of the latter – and moving from there to the political philosophy of fascism and the emergence of dystopia in popular literature, as in Huxley’s “Brave New World” (1932), the seminar ends with an assessment of the current state of utopian thinking and more general reflections on idealisation as a necessary feature of human thought. Is the persisting attraction of utopias just a reflection of a more general tendency of humans to interpret and evaluate reality through the lens of counter-factual assumptions about what the world ought to be like? The course is aimed at intellectually curious students who are interested in politics, history, and what it means to be a human being.
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