August 20, 2006

Dystopia, the evil twin of (Rorty's) Utopia

A dystopia is ‘an imaginary, wretched place, the opposite of Utopia’ (Cassel's Concise English Dictionary).

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term was coined in the late 19th century by John Stuart Mill, who also used Bentham's synonym, cacotopia, at the same time. Both words were based on utopia, analyzed as eu-topia, for a place where everything is as it should be; hence the converse "dys-topia" for a place where this is certainly not the case. [See also Wikipedia On-line Dictionary]

“Ok—you might say—but who cares?” Or, to paraphrase a famous Canadian journalist: "Tell me something new about something I care about!" Well, my answer is quite simple: I just don't know whether or not that “imaginary, wretched place” is something new, but you should care about your own future! Because dystopia could be the world we are going to live in tomorrow, at least according to Norm, and assuming that Richard Rorty is right … As for me, may I take the liberty of saying that Norm is right as much as Richard is (hopefully) wrong?

[This post was first published at on April 29, 2004]

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