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Utopia (Penguin Great Ideas) Paperback – 27 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (27 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141043695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141043692
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 0.9 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Students who use this edition will gain a comprehensive understanding of the historical and literary contexts out of which Utopia emerged." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Thomas More's Utopia is one of the supreme achievements of Renaissance humanism. His complex and ironic account of an imaginary communist society has not only given rise to the genre of utopian fiction but has been an inspiration to generations of political reformers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stev White on 30 Mar 2007
Format: Paperback
Sir Thomas More's Utopia is a hugely ambiguous, evocative and thought provoking book. It relays a conversation between Thomas More and Raphael Hythloday, who tells the story of a kingdom he has recently spent a number of years living in, Utopia. Raphael gives the details of this nation, a natiion where everyone is equal, where they all wear the same clothes, there is no money, everyone works for the good of the nation, everyone gets the same education, and so on, in short a perfect communist society.

However, even though Raphael Hythloday says throughout that there is no better system of government in the world than the Utopian way, the book in no way makes it apparent the author feels this, the charachter Thomas More in the book is sceptical of some of the Utopian ideals, and we are left ourselves to decide, and even though it is a utopia filled by equality, the image of the nation is quite a creepy one, everyone looks the same, all of the cities are identical, people are only allowed to visit other cities with a special permit and even when they are in other cities they still have to work. Criminals are forced into slavery rather than imprisoned, but even the "free" citizens appear to be slaves to an extent.

A critique of English Tudor government, of the role of the monarchs privy council and the running of England is also offered in book which is quite interesting. But this book will make you think about government and the ideals of a perfect society, and how in the end, the utopian ideal is flawed.

Wonderful book, read it.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 6 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Thomas More, executed by Henry VIII (one of his best friends) for treason, led an illustrious career of politics and letters. Under his friend the King, he served in many capacities - Speaker of the House of Commons, Master of Requests, Privy Councillor, etc. - culminating with the trust of the position of Lord Chancellor, a position in those days matching the prominence (if not the definition) of Prime Minister in these days. More's strong integrity and resolute mind caught the attention of scholars, political and church leaders internationally; it was this same integrity that most likely was his undoing, refusing to assent to the King's divorce and severance of ties binding the English Church with the Roman overlordship of the Pope. Indeed, More was, if not the actual ghostwriter, then certainly an inspiration and editorial aide to the document produced by King Henry VIII against the continental protestants, earning for Henry (and his heirs ever after) the title of Defender of the Faith (historical irony is that this title, most likely not intended to be hereditary, now declares the defense of a faith separated from the one for which the title was bestowed).
While an Ambassador to Flanders, More spent spare time writing this book, 'Utopia'. The very title is a still a by-word in the English language (as well as others) of a state of bliss and peace; it is often used with the context of being unrealistic. 'Utopia' is More's response to and development from Plato's 'Republic', in that it is a framework for a perfect society, or at least perfect according to More's ideas of the time. Penned originally in Latin, 'Utopia' has been translated widely; one of the better translations is by H.V.S. Ogden, in 1949, still reprinted in various editions to this day.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By edd_walker@yahoo.co.uk on 4 Sep 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I would hate for people to get the wrong impression of what for me is a first rate book. In this particular edition one even gets a superb and in many ways indispensible introduction from Paul Turner.
The great thing about this book is the nuances and element of irony that runs throughout. At first glance much of More's writing does in fact appear naive and incredulous. A more careful reading and one is left with a feeling of ambiguity as to what More's own motives for writing this book were. The most interesting part is seeing how More's writing compares to his own life and how often the two stand diametricaly opposed to one another. A good example of this is the question of how religion should be practiced.
The beauty of this book, therefore, is that one is left not entirely sure whether More is writing the first utopian novel or whether he is in fact writing a dystopia something that it is generally thought only came about much later. Remember More used the word utopia which means 'no place' to mean just that, it is only our present-day use of the word that attaches the idea of perfection to it, not his.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 May 2004
Format: Paperback
While short, this book is rich with radical ideas: Absence of private property, absence of currency, deposition of the prince if suspected of tyranny, freedom of religious belief, female priests, euthanasia, divorce by mutual consent.
I am not sure I would like to live in Utopia. It is definitely a more tolerant, free and equal society model than early 16th century England, but the excesses of Communism (e.g. forced work on farms for townsfolk) are just around the corner.
I would recommend this book, if only for its historical interest. However, it is not an easy read - especially if you are not a native English speaker. The convoluted Latin sentence structure is difficult enough without having to deal with the obsolete vocabulary.
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