While the interest in anti-utopias has exploded over the years, issues of human nature rarely make it into the discussion of these works of literature. Yet conceptions of human nature play a key role in both the utopian belief that the perfect political system can be achieved and in the anti-utopian conviction that an ideal state is neither possible nor desirable, and would simply lead to a repressive state. This book examines two well-known utopias and two anti-utopias to draw out their conceptions of human nature and show that these conceptions are directly related to their views on politics. It shows that utopians emphasize that human nature is knowable, predictable, and therefore, open to manipulation and/or suppression. Anti-utopians, on the other hand, make the claim that human nature is not entirely knowable or predictable. While they worry about the power of the state to manipulate human nature, they also make the case that the natural recalcitrance and unpredictability of human beings would lead inevitably to a search for freedom and individuality and, therefore, to a clash between the state and the individual in the supposedly ideal state. Ultimately, therefore, these anti-utopians suggest a new conception of human beings as people who value the power to choose their own ends and are unable to entirely suppress their desire for freedom. These two conceptions of human nature lead to two dramatically different conceptions of politics. Utopians see the possibility of manipulating human nature to create an ideal political system which synthesizes all political values and issues while anti-utopians reject both the possibility and desirability of an ideal political system and make the case for providing freedom of choice for all people.
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About the Author
Nivedita Bagchi is professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania
Table of ContentsChapter One: The Imperfection of Utopia: The Combination of Reason and Religion in Thomas More
Chapter Two: The Mutability of Human Nature in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward
Chapter Three: Technology and Human Nature in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
Chapter Four: The Totalitarian State and Human Nature in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four