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Utopia: The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World Paperback – January 11, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


Advance Praise: "The book is a wonderful idea and [will] find an audience beyond visitors to the exhibition."--Howard Davis, University of Oregon

About the Author

Roland Schaer was Director of Cultural Development at the Bibliotheque nationale de France from 1994 to 2000. He is now Professor of Philosophy at Rouen. Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought, Royal Holloway and New Bedford College, University of London, a specialist in the intellectual history of Great Britain in the nineteenth century, and a leading expert on British utopian thought. Lyman Tower Sargent is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and one of the foremost anglophone experts on the literature of utopias. He is the editor of the journal Utopian Studies.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195141113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195141115
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 1.1 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Alfred E. Guy Jr. on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you have any interest in the subject of utopia, this book would be worth it for the pictures alone. It has marvelous reproductions of more than a hundred images associated with ideas of utopia. These include illustrations from famous utopian novels, artwork and architecture inspired by utopian longing (including a lot of political art and propaganda), and pictures of actual communities devoted to utopian struggle and living. But it's not just pictures. The book is also filled with brilliant, provocative essays about historical and philosophical utopias. I am teaching a course on this subject right now, and the material in this book is better written and more apt to provoke discussion than most of the "primary" material that you see listed in utopian bibliographies and web-sites. This book originated as a catalog for an exhibit at the New York Public Library. I hate to say it, but the book is even better than the exhibit. If you have any interest in thinking about the project of making a better world here on Earth, this book will be a valuable resource. And much of it is fun and exciting to read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
This large (perfect size for reading on your lap) book contains a series of intelligent essays and sumptuous illustrations and photos mapping the history of utopia from Plato on. I believe that the thing that makes it such a spectacular work is the wide range of disciplines, works and forces that the writers identify as utopic.

When people think of utopia, they often think of science fiction, fanciful and ideal worlds that make life better than our wildest dreams. In truth, most science fiction these days explores utopia as a critical paradigm, realising that we can not live in a perfect world, they explore the possibilities, the way they work and the way they fail. I'm all for this, but the thing that I loved so much about the New York Public Libraries book on Utopia, was the way it is very solidly linked to the real world.
It is, indeed, a book that explores the search for an ideal society in the western world. From the communes of the 1960's and '70's to the environmental housing collectives of the '80's and '90's. From the South Seas in the British imagination to Urban Geography, from Communism to Architecture, Romanticism and Formalism and Futurism, this book identifies attempts at and dreams of utopia from our own history. Rather than the speculation and fabulation of science fiction, the book provides us with our own speculation and fabulation, our own hope and idealism.
I've always been fascinated by Utopia, growing up reading Ursula Le Guin, Yevgeny Zamyatin and others, Dostoevsky's happiness versus freedom dillema grounded itself deep inside me, living in New Zealand often feels like paradise, and hopes for a better world got me imagining.
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