Utopia – The Impossibility of Perfection
“The latter end of [this] commonwealth forgets the beginning.” ?William Shakespeare, The Tempest
From Plato’s The Republic to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, the search for a perfect social state has never stopped; its ultimate goal of achieving a human society that exists in absolute harmony with all due social justice, however, has proved to be woefully elusive. The pure concept of a utopia can be theoretically visualized as a perfect geometric circle: one that is seamless, all-inclusive, yet impossible to draw out in reality.
In 1516, Sir Thomas More depicted in his famed Utopia what he envisioned to be an ideal state?one that frees its citizens from material worries by mandating economical equality amongst them and dividing social responsibilities impartially. More’s work, however brilliant, cannot conceal the serious fallibilities and troublesome limitations of the utopian thoughts; and being the ambivalent creator that he was, More consciously emphasized the paradoxical nature of his ideal society. A century later, in his last work The Tempest, the great playwright William Shakespeare presented his audience with a mystical Commonwealth that is a reflection of the Golden Age from the classical literature. This fantasy, wrapped in the larger still whimsy that is The Tempest, will have the human race return to the purest state of nature. The Tempest, on the other hand, can be interpreted as a critique of the Utopian state. If the apparent paradise can only be sustained by magic and the deconstruction of human civilization, Shakespeare seems to imply, then utopia is altogether unachievable and impracticable.
There is little doubt that Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is a work of …
…aults. The utopian philosophy falters because it refuses to address the darker side of the fundamentals of human nature?the foremost of which is greed and malice. It needs to be remembered that human evils breed oppressive systems, not vice versa. By revolutionizing the societal system into a form that is supposedly just, one does not redeem nor remedy the intrinsic moral defects of its citizens. The Utopian philosophy remains, after all the pursuits, a hollow icon on the altar of aspiration.
More, Thomas. Utopia. Robert M. Adams. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.
Nietzsche, Fredrich. “Morals as Fossilized Violence.” The Prince. Robert M. Adams. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.
Ovid. “The Golden Age.” Utopia. Robert M. Adams. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Stanley Wells. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.