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Utopia - Expressions Of Utopianism, Postmodernism, Non-western Utopianism, Bibliography

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The word utopia was coined by Thomas More (1478–1535) as the name of the island described in his Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deq[ue] noua Insula Vtopia (1516). While More wrote in Latin, he based his new word on Greek. More combined topos (place or where) with u or ou (no or not) to create nowhere, but in "Six Lines on the Island of Utopia," 1518 woodcut by Ambrosius Holbein from Thomas More's Utopia. Although the concept of utopia has existed in many different religions and societies since ancient times, the term itself was originated by Thomas More in his early-sixteenth-century work. part of the larger work, he suggests that the word eutopia, or good place, is a better descriptor. Thus, from the time of More's original coinage, the word utopia has been conflated with eutopia to mean a nonexistent good place.

The word utopia entered Western languages quickly—the book was translated into German in 1524, Italian in 1548, French in 1550, English in 1551, and Dutch in 1553, and the word itself often entered these languages before the book was translated. In the eighteenth century, the word dystopia was first used to characterize a nonexistent bad place, but the word did not become standard usage until the mid-twentieth century.

While More coined the word and invented the genre of literature that grew from the book, he was not the first to imagine the possibility of a society better than the one currently existing and to describe such a society. Examples of such imaginings can be found in ancient Sumer, classical Greek, and Latin literature, the Old Testament, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, among other predecessors.

While it is no longer possible to see utopia as a product of the Christian West, the role of utopia in Christianity has long been an area of dispute. Eden, the millennium, and heaven all have clear utopian elements, but the extent to which they can be achieved through human action is open to dispute. The Fall and the resultant emphasis on sinful human nature has led some commentators to view utopia as anti-Christian and heretical. Human beings are simply not capable of a utopia in this life. But other commentators, like the theologian Paul Tillich (1886–1965) and the founders of Liberation Theology, have argued that utopia is central to any understanding of the social message of Christianity.

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