242 pages | 17 B/W Illus.
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?
"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
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