Though the term is most famously associated with Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), the basic idea of imagining another, better world (eutopia, good place) that does not yet exist on Earth (utopia, no-place) is one with a long, rich history that touches perhaps all human societies and cultures. However over the course of the twentieth century, in some discourses utopianism and the utopian imagination came to be viewed as dangerous. They became associated not with dreams of a better world but with the most nightmarish, violent aspects of modernity and state-led efforts to make those dreams an actuality. In the wake of the collapse of state socialist projects and the rise in recent decades of what some call “market utopianism,” there has been a resurgence of interest and debate in the social sciences and humanities regarding utopian thought and the practical construction of “real utopias.” These efforts reconsider the role of utopian thought in human life in light of this history and seek workable alternatives to contemporary political, social, and economic governance.
This year’s meeting of the Public Administration Theory Network seeks to re-engage “the utopian imagination” and invites contributions from across the social sciences, humanities, and fields of professional and community practice that critically explore the intersection of contemporary governance, utopia, and the human impulse to make better worlds.
I. Theoretical re-engagements with “utopia” that explore questions, such as:
–Can “utopia” be productively rehabilitated in light of history and critique? Or is it inextricably linked with Western hegemony and violence?
–How can or should traditions from the Global South, indigenous and native peoples, Asia, and elsewhere inform a re-examination of “Western” theories and experiences of utopianism?
–What role can or should government and public administration play in today’s utopian imaginings?
II. Historical and/or genealogical analyses that explore utopia’s intersection with: democracy, capitalism, liberalism, dystopia, colonialism, human nature, race, gender, sexuality, (anti-)globalization, innovation.
III. Critical explorations of contemporary sources of “utopian” and “dystopian” narrative and imagery and their relationship to matters of governance, such as: technology, management, environmentalism, economics, film, literature, philosophy, religion.
IV. Theoretically informed case studies that analyze the practical and institutional possibilities of moving from “utopian imagination” to building and governing “real utopias” and “intentional communities.”
ACCEPTED FOR PRESENTATION: 2013 Public Governance in the 21st Century: New Rules, Hybrid Forms, One Constant – The Public