VOYAGES TO UTOPIA: From Monastery to Commune, The Search for the Perfect Society in Modern Times by William McCord

VOYAGES TO UTOPIA: From Monastery to Commune, The Search for the Perfect Society in Modern Times

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Maintaining a healthy cynicism and a strong sense of respect for his subject, McCord (Mississippi: The Long Hot Summer, 1965) here casts a discerning eye upon would-be utopias as vast as China and as small and short-lived as the Sixties-style communes. McCord considers four types of commune: simplistic, communal enterprises, such as the Israeli kibbutz; attempts to create a social order based on religious belief and vision, like the orders of St. Francis friars and the Gandhians; the modern-day Marxist-influenced states; and capitalist ""paradises,"" e.g., Denmark and Singapore. He finds in each a wide disparity between the original ideal and the eventual reality. Most efforts to achieve a better world (or, the ""good place,"" as utopia is defined in Greek; it can also mean ""nowhere"") fail, McCord believes, because of a denial of everyday realities: ""More communes went under because the dishes never got washed""; and, in cases like the 20th-century socialist states, because of a refusal to realize the inescapable interconnection and interdependency with the rest of the world. Those who have achieved a modicum of success, like the Quakers, do so through the steadfastness of their leaders and a pragmatism that is as self-limiting as it is goal-oriented. McCord (Sociology/CUNY) presents his material succinctly and pleasantly, without academic stodginess, and lends an optimistic quality to what might otherwise be a gloomy subject.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 1989
Publisher: Norton