Date of Award

12-1-1984

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Atlanta University (AU)

School

School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Alex Willingham

Abstract

This dissertation is concerned with the status of utopian thought in modern times. As such it is concerned with a historic problem in political theory, i.e., how to visualize a perfect human community. Since the turn of the 20th century, we have seen a decline in utopian literature. A variety of commentators, including Mannhein: and Mumford, noted and decried this trend. It seemed ironic to those observers that utopia's demise would occur when humanity was closest to realizing material abundance for all. My research evaluates this irony. The primary data of my work are drawn from the genre of science fiction. The new locus for utopian thought seems natural enough. Science fiction is a speculative activity and, in its emphasis on science and technology, concerns itself with an area of human activity that has been intimately connected with the idea of progress since the European Enlightenment. A number of scholars including Mumford, Sargent, Suvin, and Williams, have asserted that contemporary utopian thought could be found in science fiction. Their argument has been strengthened by some science fiction novels published since the l960s. These novels visualized superior societies. My research further evaluates the link between utopian thought and science fiction. I come to the conclusion that science fiction contains many utopian attributes. However, the genre differs from utopian thought in one critical respect: it depoliticizes the public domain. As such, science fiction fails to perform a historic role of utopian thought, namely: to provide a new understanding of politics. Utopian literature has undergone a nutation in its abandonment of the political. This denatucring of utopian thought has led to an anomaly in political philosophy the emergence of an apolitical utopian literature within the confines of science fiction.

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