Recorded on 25 February 2016 at 2.04, New Academic Building
Five hundred years ago Thomas More’s Utopia was published in Latin, thereby introducing the word Utopia into the English language. But what is its relevance today? There are elements of More’s text which still resonate, notably his critique of enclosures, which can be given a contemporary twist in relation to the social cleansing of central London. There are elements of his postulated alternative, such as the abolition of property, which have ongoing power. On the other hand his gender politics, his reliance on patriarchy, his use of slavery and his attitude to colonialism are less attractive. In this lecture, Ruth Levitas argues that what is important about More’s text is less the substance than the method of utopian speculation. Utopia should be regarded not as a plan, but as a provisional and reflexive method of exploring potential futures. In this sense, Utopia is an essential element in social transformation and a tool for the creation of a more equitable and sustainable society.
Ruth Levitas is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Bristol, Co-Founder of the Utopian Studies Society- Europe and author of The Concept of Utopia and Utopia as Method.