Utopia in Economics and Literature
Utopia as a distinctive genre of writing is to describe the ideal society—"place of nowhere," as the word meant in Greek. As a genre utopian literature overlaps with science fiction and satire. In modern times dystopia became the more attractive genre because writers use it to express their critiques of idealizations. Therefore in economic thinking "utopian" now has a commonly pejorative connotation, not a positive or scientific one. One of the purposes of the course will be to show the contexts in which neoclassical theories of free-markets or scientific socialism became utopian and vice versa. Despite its liability to faults, classic utopian literature, as we will see in this course, often contained a fresh description of the real world. Another aim of the course will be to see the boundaries, type of organization, tendency to violence, the economics (property, money, labor), technological development and inner contradictions. We will observe that these different points are common in various utopias such as religious (chiliasm), conservative, socialist or liberal ones. The utopian tradition is rich, and time will be limited, so we will read only classical books such as Plato's "Republic," "Utopia" by Thomas More (1516), "The New Atlantis" by Francis Bacon (1620), Charles Fourier on Harmony and Phalansteries (1808), early British political economic writing, and Frederick Engels. Special attention will be given to Soviet utopias expressed in different forms by Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Chayanov, Alexander Bogdanov. Modern utopias will be taught through movies, and partly on so called neoliberal thinking and practices.