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The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible
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In common vernacular, Utopia usually conjures up imaginations of an impossible place marked by its perfection and happiness. However, this represents but one of the many ways in which utopias can be understood. When studied closer, utopian studies scholars have found it hard to reach a consensus on what a utopia is, and what it is for. Broadly speaking, we can find four different ways of understanding utopia: as a literary text; as a blueprint for society; as a critical reflection of the present; and as a simple pursuit for a better life. Crucially, all these categories speak to the possibility of a different way of life, be it elsewhere in space as with early utopian texts, or elsewhere in time as is most common in contemporary utopias. Utopias which exists elsewhere in time speak most directly to what is possible, as placing them in our own future serves to incite us to work toward them, making changes in the present that might approximate this possible future. This is the aim of most living utopian movements today – from #Occupy Wallstreet to new gene editing technology – which not only presents us with a vision for a possible utopia future, but also tells us how to get there, making the possible increasingly tangible.

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Correspondence to Gabriela Manley .

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Manley, G. (2021). Utopia. In: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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