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eSymposium: UTOPIA & UTOPIAN THINKING


Before the publication of More’s De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia Libellus Vere Aureus in 1516, the concept of Utopia was represented by the Latin verb ‘Nusquama’, meaning ‘nowhere’. More combined the Greek ou (no), transliterated into the Latin u, with the Greek topos (place), to create Utopia. Thomas More’s Utopia was both an imagined ‘no-place’ and a serious critique of the social evils of sixteenth century England (Bruce, 1999). By the end of the sixteenth century the adjectival form ‘utopian’ had been born1 and by the seventeenth century, ‘Utopia’ had made its way into other European languages (see Bacon, Cervantes and Shakespeare). Utopia was not only a poetic or imaginary place, but had come to denote general programmes and manifestos for ideal societies promoted by the authors directly (Milton, Leibniz) to be realised via political action (Manuel and Manuel, 1979). Following on from the original Utopia of Thomas More in 1516 up to the early twentieth century, a range of literary Utopias and utopian manifestos emerged, some presenting a vision of a new society; others presenting a blueprint for possibilities that could be applied in practice. While the term ‘Utopia’ came to cover a variety of meanings and interpretations that differed in content, form, political alignment and intention, one of the key characteristics of utopian politics lay in the imagining of political systems radically different from existing ones (Goodwin and Taylor, 1982; Jameson, 2005).

Main topics for discussion at eIPO 2021 will therefore be:
1) Realism versus Idealism in political philosophy: throughout the history of political philosophy and politics, there has been continual debate about the roles of idealism versus realism. For contemporary political philosophy, this debate manifests in notions of ideal theory versus nonideal theory. Nonideal thinkers shift their focus from theorizing about full social justice, asking instead which feasible institutional and political changes would make a society more just. Ideal thinkers, on the other hand, question whether full justice is a standard that any society is likely ever to satisfy. And, if social justice is unrealistic, are attempts to understand it without value or importance, and merely utopian?
2) Interpretations of key utopian and anti-utopian texts to demonstrate how they construct, challenge and explore the ideas and forms of social phenomenons in the past and present. earlier utopian writings and the social and political ideals of their own periods
3) Is contemporary culture a prove of utopian eclipse by the dystopian narratives?
4) How to set ambitious goals and practical principles for creating a desirable society?
5) What is the role of utopian thinking in critical thinking?

Competition topics & Titles for Essays

Topics for competition / essay writing will be announced on Friday, May 28th. Here you can find all the topics and quotations from previous years. Following the IPO statutes, topics for the competition are not connected with the topic for the eSymposium.