The adjective utopian has come into some disrepute and is frequently used contemptuously to mean impractical or impossibly visionary. The device of describing a utopia in satire or for the exercise of wit is almost as old as the serious utopia. The satiric device goes back to such comic utopias as that of Aristophanes in The Birds. Bernard Mandeville in The Fable of the Bees (1714) and Jonathan Swift in parts of Gulliver's Travels (1726) are in the same tradition. Pseudo-utopian satire has been extensive in modern times in such novels as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). The rise of the modern totalitarian state has brought forth several works, notably Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), by George Orwell, which describe the unhappy fate of the individual under the control of a supposedly benevolent despotism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.