Okay, so I might be slightly obsessed with contemplating this topic, but hey, it is a huge topic and while the word “utopia” usually might bring on thoughts of fictional universes, I think that thinking about the concept is a great way to at the very least think critically about the world in which we are currently living. The contrast presented in fictional utopias, at least for me, makes me think—well, what is different from this world and my world? Does this utopia present a reasonable universe? Could it really work? Should it work? Is it better than the world that I occupy?

In considering these questions, one must inevitably ask oneself—what components would factor into a utopia, as you’d conceive it? Would there be government, and law? If so, what kind of laws, what kind of government? Who would get to decide? Would there be states, countries? What about money? Jail? In considering these concepts, too, one must consider the assumptions underlying them.

For example, I don’t think that jail would have a place in utopia. The assumption that informs this belief is that no one should have that kind of power over another person; that is, the power to take all power away from another. Additionally, from what little I know of jails and prisons generally and historically, they do not solve anything and the only things they create are negative things. I mean, it seems the purpose of them is not reform but a show of power—you break the laws that a being or entity more powerful than you has set in place, you suffer the consequences.

Anyway, I digress, but see what I mean? It isn’t as simple as saying yes this should exist or no it should not. In thinking of every element that is present in a utopia (or dystopia) one is forced to take apart the society that is presented, piece by piece, and really consider these elements. This is where the fictional aspect is useful, because it displaces us from our daily lived experience of the everyday here on Earth. If you’re not forced to question how things function, if they work for you, well why should you?

In any case, read more dystopias and utopias! They’ll get you thinking about all kinds of things. I recommend “The Dispossessed” by Ursula Le Guin. I would go so far as to say that it is the book that got me started thinking about all of this mess months ago.