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Inventions of NemesisUtopia, Indignation, and Justice$
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Douglas Mao

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691199252

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691199252.001.0001

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Shaping Utopians

Shaping Utopians

(p.85) 2 Shaping Utopians
Inventions of Nemesis

Douglas Mao

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines an aspect of utopia that has provided especially ample fodder for counterindignation. Analysts of utopian writing have long noted that some utopias promise to realize their goals by means of rules and institutions that work with people as they inevitably are, while other utopias propose to arrange conditions that will reshape human character. The chapter distinguishes between managerial utopias, which operate mainly through wittily engineered incentives and disincentives, and transformative utopias, which arrange conditions in ways that help determine what utopian people will be like. Both kinds of utopias have inspired vehement counterindignation because they can be seen as assaulting, if in somewhat different ways, human freedom. But the transformative utopia has proven especially inflammatory because it seems to imply a forcing of the soul by the powers that be — and because it seems at its furthest to threaten the replacement of humanity as we know it with something else. After tracing the history of these two utopian modes, the chapter turns to the acme of the transformative mode as it emerges, in the middle of the twentieth century, in antiutopian alarms about behavioral conditioning as well as a radical defense of conditioning mounted by B. F. Skinner.

Keywords:   utopia, counterindignation, utopian writing, managerial utopias, transformative utopias, utopian people, human freedom, behavioral conditioning

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