Psychology of Utopias Agnes Balint The concept of Utopia

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Utopias and psychosis

The most conspicuous feature of utopias is that they secede from reality, so we can say that they have something in common with psychosis on the level of the phenomenon. It is true that this is a controlled secession (by the authors), and it does not mean the complete loss of contact with reality.

If we look for the analogy of utopias with psychosis, we can easily acknowledge that utopias are based on delusion-like ideas. These ideas, however, construct a coherent system. “Delusions” keep the theoretic systems of utopias together, and they serve as an ideological and moral basis to them. As delusions are necessarily false, the content of the reality generated by them is at least dubious.

Delusions tie down and, at the same time, are capable to mobilize exceeding amounts of energy. This energy provides utopias for ideological and moral élan. The élan enchants and fills the travelers (not mentioning the authors themselves) up with enthusiasm. Readers also can fall victim to its charms. This élan mobilizes not only the readers’ minds but also their emotions, and they can hardly stay indifferent to the world of the utopia. The delusions of the utopias operate in the same way as the psychotic persons'. They serve accomplished responses to all the questions inside their systems. The questions that query the systems themselves are labeled irrelevant.

The analogy, however, is incomplete. There are some differences between insane persons and the authors of utopias. Delusions encompass the psychotic persons' everyday life, but for the authors of the utopias (except for the case they are also insane) they serve as intellectual adventures (concerning leastwise the conscious level).2 The boundaries, however, are permeable. For the insane persons it is natural that they subordinate their thoughts and acts to delusions. If the author started to construct the world of the utopia he no longer could be regarded sane.

As the boundaries between psychosis and utopia are permeable, it seems logical to conclude that the authors of utopias are very close to get into a psychotic state. Their contact with reality is unbalanced and their personalities are at the threshold of disintegration. Writing utopias, thus, (just like any other creative activities) is a self-healing attempt, aimed at the prevention of mental insanity. All these issues need a more elaborative exposition that I will try to perform in the following sections.

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