21st-Century Dystopia and Utopia and a Re-Centering of Humanism


Classic dystopia (Swift, Wells) identifies the plagues of society. However, even in 21st-century works that partly do so, committed purposes are at times defeated by individualism, superficiality and mere entertainment. Commercialized dystopian science fiction, accompanied by an ideology of cynicism and an aesthetics of spectacular and violent exaggeration, seems indeed to be one of the current prevalent strategies of literary and cinematic representation of the imminent future (e.g. The Hunger Games and Terminator). Alternative to spectacular dystopia are a realistic, yet imaginative belief that the future can be modified to the benefit of sentient beings, and, on the level of aesthetics, a reflective and un-spectacularized poetics addressed to the mind and including humane emotions. Positive examples in recent science fiction are Arrival film and story and the film Advantageous.Arrival is a fictional utopia, but there are social prefigurations which are not necessarily separate from daily life (e.g. Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias). And if a total type of utopia (as in texts by More, Campanella and Fourier) might be unsuitable for the present, a useful concept is Calvino’s “dust like utopia”, a minimalist yet effective approach to social responsibility. Finally, anti-Machiavellian humanism should be encouraged, based on the important values of equality, solidarity, compassion and ethical behaviour. Whenever such concerns have fallen to the margins, they deserve to be re-centered. References in this field are essays by Pikketty, Stiglitz and Harvey.

Author Information
Roberto Bertoni, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2018
Stream: Humanities - Literature/Literary Studies*

This paper is part of the ACAH2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon