Dizionario di Politica

Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry surveys the chief senses of the term in literature and political thought. Karl Mannheim (1929) provided the best-known definition of utopia. According to Mannheim, utopianism not only contradicts its contemporary reality, but also represents a throwing-off of the ties of the existing social and political order. Looked at from this perspective of the contemporary social order, a utopia always seems impracticable.
Thomas Moore, who coined the term in the 16th century, saw a utopia as a society still open to historical development, and considered it as a means rather than an end. Tommaso Campanella saw his utopia as an end in itself. He described an ideal state in a poetic dialogue, rather than presenting a plan of action. Scholars who consider utopias as ends tend to distort human nature. This distortion can produce good or evil. The final part of the entry surveys major literary utopias.