Publication Details

Melano, A. L. (2013). Ecophilosophy and communalist utopian novels: do bicycles and biotechnology go together?. Social Sciences Directory, 2 (3), 75-81.


The period of social change from the 1960s to the 1980s saw a flowering of utopian novels, from Huxley's Island (1962) and Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1964) through to Callenbach's Ecotopia (1975) and Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). These works were infused with a vision of an ideal world structured as a decentralised network of small villages or precincts. In each novel, local, participatory decision-making was the key to a utopian "good place" both for people and for ecological communities as a whole. The need to reharmonise with ecological systems saw a rejection of wasteful technologies which cater to consumerism. Instead, these utopias explored "high-tech, low-tech" societies. "High technology" (in the sense of sophisticated technology) was particularly encouraged for certain utopian purposes, such as biotechnology to improve ecology and agriculture. Technologies or sciences that might ravage the natural world were excluded, leading to a return to "low technology" (in the sense of simple, low-impact technology), such as bicycles for transport and manual labour for food production. Each of these utopian works was environmentally thoughtful, if not radical, in its suggested path to a better world. But did these communalist visions sufficiently challenge both the oppositions (nature/society) and the hierarchies (man's interests before others) that have proven so destructive in the current age, or is a further radical shift needed in our vision of a reharmonised planet?



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