Utopianism is a kind of political thought the prevailing feature of which is (as Plato had pointed out) that political models are created "by way of discourse". Another distinctive characteristic, rendered universal by Thomas More, is the fact that utopian models are set forth with a narrative process that illustrates an ideal society that actually exists, existed in the past or could possibly exist. These elements have always linked utopias to other modes of political discourse, such as projects, and other narrative forms, such as journeys, philosophical novels, and science fiction. In his review of the utopian genre, the author describes both the variables and the constants that have marked its history: first he illustrates its archetypes and linguistic aspects; then, in addressing modern utopias, he examines their ties with theoretical and practical politics, including the founding and the operation of actual "ideal" communities. Insofar as they are blueprints and attempts to anticipate upcoming innovations, utopias evokes a sense of trust in the near future; yet they have had also been vehicles for other feelings - nostalgia (retrospective utopias) and scepticism (anti-utopias) - especially during the 20th century.
Vittor Ivo Comparato teaches Modern History at the University of Perugia.