PubPol 475.003

PubPol 475.003: Topics: Utopianism and Public Policy

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Winter 2015
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“Utopia” in Greek means both “good place” and “no place”—a paradise existing only in our imaginations. But no matter how theoretical or fanciful utopias may be, people still try to implement them, often with tragic consequences. In this class we’ll examine what goes wrong when governments or groups attempt to implement utopian policies and ask: is failure inevitable, and if so, why? Meanwhile we’ll pursue another line of thinking that holds that imagining utopia, despite its risks, can be a useful exercise: it enlarges our understanding of what is possible and poses radical solutions for intractable problems. Therefore in this course we’ll also study how utopian philosophy has contributed (or might contribute) to the development of innovative policy solutions. Possible utopian texts include Lenin’s The State and the Revolution, the writings of Charles Fourier, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, BF Skinner’s Walden II, and Le Corbusier’s The Radiant City.