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Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Aspirations for a better--even a perfect--society have existed throughout history. Utopias have been imagined in intricate detail by, among others, philosophers, poets, social reformers, architects, and artists.

Gregory Claeys, a leading scholar in the field, surveys the influence of the idea of utopia on history, literature, art, architecture, and religious and political thought. Central to his exploration of ideal worlds are creation myths; archetypes of heaven and the afterlife; new worlds and voyages of discovery; ages of revolution and technological progress; model communities and kibbutzim; political and ecological dystopias; space travel and science fiction.

The most significant utopias throughout history--whether envisaged or attempted--are covered, including visions of the ideal society in Asia, Africa, the Arab world, and the Americas, as well as the ancient and Western worlds. Complete with a wealth of photographs, paintings, engravings, maps, documents, posters, and film stills, as well as comprehensive notes and a bibliography, this volume is a compelling and insightful exploration of the rich diversity of the utopian imagination.

Book News Annotation:

Filled with many fascinating images of utopias, paradises, and experimental communities, this is a serious survey of the main philosophical strands of utopia from classical times through the present. Claeys (history of political thought, Royal Holloway, U. of London), who has written extensively on the subject, has succeeded admirably in summarizing a vast literature into one historical narrative that includes discussion of the tenets of what constitutes ideal society, the leading proponents of certain approaches, examples from popular literature, changes in what constitutes utopia following encounters with native cultures, the ideals underlying political movements such as the French and American Revolutions, and personality cults that surround leaders that seek fundamental societal upheaval. He concludes with a chapter detailing the harsh realities of third-world producers that support the near-utopian affluence of the West in the 20th and 21st centuries. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


An illustrated history of a perennially powerful idea: the quest for the ideal society from classical times to the present day.

About the Author

Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written and edited numerous books, including Searching for Utopia, The Utopia Reader, and The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature.

Product Details

The History of an Idea
Claeys, Gregory
Thames & Hudson
General History
World History-General
Publication Date:
141 color and 65 black-and-white illustr
9.88000 x 7.75000 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Archaeology » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » Utopia
History and Social Science » World History » General

Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea New Hardcover
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$38.00 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Thames & Hudson - English 9780500251744 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , An illustrated history of a perennially powerful idea: the quest for the ideal society from classical times to the present day.
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