Futures without financial crises: Utopian literature in the 1890s and 1930s

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Australian utopian fiction of the 1890s and 1930s reflects the traumatic impact of the economic crises of these decades and expresses desire to avoid the insecurities of capitalism. There are significant differences, however, in the imaginative reach of the utopias devised in the 1890s and those formulated in the 1930s. In Australia in the 1890s, the possibilities for progress and perfection were varied. Unionism, socialist legislation, the formation of ideal communities based on socialist or anarchist principles, militant forms of protest, attempts to inaugurate direct rather than mere representative democracy were some of the various strategies pursued in this decade that promised a better world. The methods depicted in the utopian writings of the 1890s for achieving ideal societies are as diverse as the real politically radical currents of the time. By the 1930s, the starkly singular conception of emancipation offered by the Soviet model dominates the imagination of those who wrote of better futures. The utopian literature of the 1930s is thus diminished by its fascination with an alleged model of perfection in the real world. The differences between the utopian literatures of two decades undergoing similar upheavals confirms Darko Suvin's observation that the parameters of utopian imagination are produced by the particular radical milieux around those who dare to dream of alternatives.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304310903294796

Affiliations: School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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