Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea

Overview

An illustrated history of a perennially powerful idea: the quest for the ideal society from classical times to the present day.
Aspirations for a better—even a perfect—society have existed throughout history. Utopias have been imagined in intricate detail by, among others, philosophers, poets, social reformers, architects, and artists.
Gregory Claeys, a leading scholar in the field, surveys the influence of the idea of utopia on history, ...

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Overview

An illustrated history of a perennially powerful idea: the quest for the ideal society from classical times to the present day.
Aspirations for a better—even a perfect—society have existed throughout history. Utopias have been imagined in intricate detail by, among others, philosophers, poets, social reformers, architects, and artists.
Gregory Claeys, a leading scholar in the field, surveys the influence of the idea of utopia on history, literature, art, architecture, and religious and political thought. Central to his exploration of ideal worlds are creation myths; archetypes of heaven and the afterlife; new worlds and voyages of discovery; ages of revolution and technological progress; model communities and kibbutzim; political and ecological dystopias; space travel and science fiction.
The most significant utopias throughout history—whether envisaged or attempted—are covered, including visions of the ideal society in Asia, Africa, the Arab world, and the Americas, as well as the ancient and Western worlds. Complete with a wealth of photographs, paintings, engravings, maps, documents, posters, and film stills, as well as comprehensive notes and a bibliography, this volume is a compelling and insightful exploration of the rich diversity of the utopian imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Thomas More may have coined the term Utopia in 1516 in his book of the same title, but in the broadest sense, as discussed in this survey of utopian visions, Utopia is any vision of the world as it ought to be—not an impracticable vision, but one that stands some chance, however unlikely, of being realized. Claeys (history of political thought, Royal Holloway, Univ. of London; editor, The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature) is an enjoyable companion on this whirlwind tour of the complicated genealogy of the idea of Utopia. His encyclopedic knowledge of the subject makes him the perfect choice for the daunting task of writing about the utopian impulse as it has surfaced in various cultures, from early tales of Eden, the Elysian Fields and Atlantis (all, of course, preexisting More's coinage of the term) through modern-day social experiments and the ever-burgeoning literature on positive and negative utopias. One of many welcome features of this book is that the illustrations complement and enrich the text. VERDICT Attractive enough to sit on one's coffee table, the volume is also substantial enough for anyone's library. It is not an academic study but is infused with the author's deep knowledge of the subject and should have wide appeal.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500251744
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 5/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,344,110
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written and edited numerous books, including Searching for Utopia, The Utopia Reader, and The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature.

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