Considering the rise in global income inequality, the burgeoning climate crisis, and the increasingly divisive socio-political climate, it can feel like the known world is headed down a dark and dystopian path. (These are the countries where climate change is most evident.)
In these times, when cynicism is all too prevalent, it may be wise to consider what the historian and philosopher Howard Zinn had to say on being hopeful in bad times: “What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.”
This is where the power of utopian literature shines. Dreaming into possible futures where humankind has overcome the challenges that currently face us may be a crucial part of achieving even miniscule positive change. Utopian stories can cultivate the courage and hope that motivate individuals to work toward building a better world for ourselves and our descendants.
To determine 30 essential utopian novels of the last 400 years, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous literary websites including GoodReads and the New York Times Book Review, as well as Britannica and other sources. We included a diverse range of authors from the 17th century to the present day, capturing a spread of utopian visions that encompass numerous ideologies including socialism, feminism, anti-racism, behaviorism, and environmentalism.
Although some novels and writings, particularly the earlier works, envision utopian societies where men still rule and women are property, or where class and racial disparities still exist, other works imagine post-gender and classless societies. As these are largely projections of possible futures, most fall into the realm of speculative or science fiction – though a few have predicted current technologies. (Here are the best movies about the future.)
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