UTOPIA A or B
Two visions for the future
by Mike Mercer
The Montreal Review, May, 2010
This text aims to examine the structure of power in two theoretical settings, Utopias A and B, which are in the process of being formed. It is taken as a foundational principle that all societies need some sort of civil control, anarchy is not an option. The sort of control used will depend on the society type. The more free a state aims to be, the more minimal and or subtle the civil controls. Utopia A will be an authoritarian state that acts in a blunt way to provide stability and happiness to its people. It is willing to limit individual liberties for the common good. Its social controls are clear and numerous. Utopia B will be a libertarian state that loves Freedom, Democracy and Capitalism. In many ways it is what America claims to be. Thus it must use subtle methods of social control.
My thoughts on the issue of population control and society management have been influenced by several sets of authors: Plato, Foucault, Marx, Tocqueville and Chomsky, who are well known to have written on politics, power and the construction of society. Also of note are: More, Bacon, Neville, Orwell and Bradbury, who offered accounts of fictional societies; Utopias and in some cases their dark opposites. Next I want to give credit to: Howard, Wright and Le Corbusier, who were architects and urban planners with ideas of physical utopias. Finally I want to point to Ellul, Saul and Franklin, who wrote about how technology has affected real society.
Genealogy of Utopias A & B
In terms of time and technology the Utopias A and B are set in the near future, with no assumptions made about new inventions. The technology and techniques of today may be pushed into more common use or discouraged, but neither Utopia requires miracle machines to make it work.
In terms of geography my original idea involved only Canada as the setting. But upon consideration of the international consequences of either Utopia (especially A) it became clear that a wider scope would be necessary. Thus I involve all of North America because it offers all the qualities needed: population, land area, resources, industry, etc. We may consider this an extension of NAFTA and NORAD.
A few years from now there comes an event of staggering significance. It causes the intellectuals and common peoples of North America to seriously question all aspects of society. It is monumental enough that even the elite, with their vested interests in the traditional civil institutions, are open to questioning the status quo. In simple terms a decade is devoted to seriously addressing the question: Are we doing things the right way to provide the best life possible for the most people? The result of all this civil soul searching is the emergence of two camps who offer visions of the future.
Camp-A. They identified society's problems as fundamentally systemic. They claimed everything we have been doing was wrong. Our social institutes promote inequality and injustice more often than the virtues they were supposed to uphold. The intellectuals of Camp-A offered detailed criticisms of what was wrong by comparing intended outcomes of political policy and organizational activity with actual outcomes.
The solution called for was a radical restructuring of society, not only its institutions but also its physical form. This earned the Camp the titles Radical and Revolutionary. Indeed their plans were essentially a holistic change to civilization. Among the supporters were many who favored socialist policies and distributive equality.
"In examining modern life, we find that many activities run counter to what most people express as their desires for a good life, we find that endless tinkering and band-aid solutions simply do not work. We need serious change!" said a leading spokesman for Camp-A. His point was that people do not have enough of the things they value most: freedom, equality, security, justice.
Camp-A theorists pushed for rational and logical social science. Efficiency should rule all matters they said. The artistic community countered that pure logic was not enough to make a world worth living in. Efficiency could set general patterns, but rules must be flexible to consider individual context. Nevertheless there was agreement over the basic principle: to provide the best quality of life for all, even at the expense of some.
Camp-B. They identified society's problems as a failure to live up to desired standards. They claim that we are a shadow of what we should be. Not that we were doing everything wrong, but rather that we were not doing things as well as we might. We need not be anything different, we simply must push towards being more of what we are: a free market, liberal, democratic society.
The solution call for was an extensive modification to various institutions, but no fundamental change was desired. This earned the Camp the title Moderate Reformers. Indeed part of their popularity came from the fact that the improvements were not frightening. Among the supporters were many libertarians who favored reduced government involvement in all aspects of life. "We have liberty, democracy and the free market; we simply need to refine them. Radical change would inevitably reduce some of these valued qualities." said a major figure in Camp B. His point was that society had not lived up to the ideals it held, but that it was on the right path. The radical ideas of the other camp were going too far.
Camp-B theorists rejected the Nanny State approach, because its overall effect was to make people less able to think and take care of themselves. They also found that many laws, made to protect people, actually limited them. As part of the libertarian legal reform, they promoted laws that would have people face more situations free of both restrictions and protections...
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Genealogy of Utopias A & B
The Question of Human Nature
Addressing Marx's claim about social structure
Who should rule Utopia?
Urban Planning & On the doorstep of Utopia
Bibliography for Utopia A or B
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