1st Edition

American Utopia
Literature, Society, and the Human Use of Human Beings

ISBN 9780367144340
Published July 23, 2019 by Routledge
256 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

From Black Tuesday to the White House, from Plato to Robert Nozick, from Eugene Debs to Richard Nixon, from Peter Cornelis Plockhoy to the hippie communes of the Sixties, from universal basic income to utopian basic income, from proverbial wisdom to multilevel selection, from Big Data to paleomorality, from Prisoner’s Dilemma to social-engineering Israeli kindergartens, from time travel to gene engineering, from the pretzel logic of meritocracy to deaggressing humanity, American Utopia maps the pitfalls and windfalls of social reform in the name of the human use of human beings.

Interrogating the assumptions behind four outré utopias by Thomas M. Disch, Bernard Malamud, Kurt Vonnegut, and Margaret Atwood, the book interrogates the assumptions that have historically been central to the utopian project. Whence the seeds of social discontent? Whence our taste for egoism and altruism? For waging war and waging peace? Can we bioengineer human nature to specifications? Should we? Who makes better guardians: humans or machines? And who will guard the guardians?

Table of Contents


Part 1: Utopia, Eutopia, Youtopia

Chapter 1: What If You Could?

Chapter 2: Little Commonwealth

Chapter 3: Defense of Poetry

Part 2: Dischtopia: Thomas M. Disch

Chapter 4: Enter the Chamleleon

Chapter 5: East 11th Street

Chapter 6: The Shape of Things to Come

Part 3: Pantopia: Bernard Malamud

Chapter 7: Earth Abides

Chapter 8: You Tell Me That It's Evolution

Chapter 9: Proverbial Wisdom

Part 4: Uchronia: Kurt Vonnegut

Chapter 10: The Islands of the Day Before

Chapter 11: Do the Chronomotion with Me

Chapter 12: The Imp of the Perverse

Part 5: Biotopia: Margaret Atwood

Chapter 13: Oryx and Crick

Chapter 14: The Advocate's Devil

Chapter 15: Talkin' ‘Bout My Gene-ration



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Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and writer who is listed in the Canadian Who’s Who. He is Amazon and Alibris #1 bestseller in American history and criticism, popular culture criticism, and Canadian literary criticism, and author of nineteen award-winning books, including American Utopia and Social Engineering in Literature, Social Thought, and Political History (Routledge, 2011).


"Peter Swirski is one of the original scholars of his generation. American Utopia combines an incredible range of knowledge, wicked humor, and take-no-prisoner attitude to the corruption, exploitation, and political repression that come between us and social justice. Anyone interested in Utopias and Utopian thought, in American literature and American society, and in the future of humanity—and that includes all of us—will find this one-of-a-kind book difficult to put down." 
—Arthur Asa Berger, Professor Emeritus, San Francisco State University

"This is quintessential Swirski: sharp, exciting, and sophisticated. This is a timely and rewarding read. Don’t miss it!"
—David Livingstone Smith, Professor of Philosophy, University of New England

"This book is a major contribution to Utopian studies, an insightful critique of some contemporary utopias, and an important meditation on issues raised by the doomed search for human perfection."
—David Rampton, University of Ottawa