Space, Power and Happiness in the Utopian and Anti-Utopian Imaginations

Mikko Karhu, Juha Ridanpää


This article discusses how utopian and anti-utopian literatures offer alternate visions to find connecting links between the control of space, power and happiness. The focus is on three classics of utopian and dystopian literatures: Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Through the analysis of these works it is pondered how utopian and anti-utopian societies offer freedom or restrict inhabitants moving and acting in their worlds, and how this is portrayed as a means to measure the quality of life. The article contributes to socially critical literary geography by envisioning various options to imagine the relationship of space and power. The starting presumption in the article is that both utopian and anti-utopian imaginations suggest that freedom to use space is a key factor when defining human happiness.


Utopia; anti-utopia; space; power; happiness; Thomas More; Aldous Huxley; George Orwell

Full Text:



Bloch, E. (1986) The Principle of Hope. Cambridge: The MITT Press.

Claeys, G. and Sargent, L. T. (1999) Utopia reader. New York: New York University Press.

Cook, I. G. (1981) ‘Consciousness and the Novel: Fact and Fiction in the Works of D. H. Lawrence.’ In Pocock, D. C. D. (ed) Humanistic Geography and Literature: Essays on the Experience of Place. London: Croom Helm, pp. 66-84.

Cresswell, T. (1993) ‘Mobility as resistance: a geographical reading of Kerouac’s ’On the road.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 18(2), pp. 249-262.

Daniels, S. (1992) ‘Place and the geographical imagination.’ Geography, 77(4), pp. 310-322.

Ehland, C. (2009) ‘The Watchdogs of Eden: Chesterton and Buchan look ath the present of the future.’ In Pordzik, R. (ed) Futurescapes: Space in utopian and science fiction discourses. New York: Rodopi, pp. 171-200.

Foucault, M. (1979) Discipline and punish: The Birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.

Graham, J., Plumptre, T. W. and Amos, B. (2003) Principles for good governance in the 21st century. Ottawa: Institute on governance.

Gramsci, A. (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Harvey, D. (1973) Social Justice and the City. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Howell, P. (1998) ‘Crime and the city solution: crime fiction, urban knowledge, and radical geography.’ Antipode, 30(4), pp. 357-378.

Huxley, A. (1932/2006) Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Huxley, A. (1958) ‘The Mike Wallace Interview: Aldous Huxley (18 May 1958)’. [Online] [Accessed 1 March 2019]

Itkonen-Kaila, M. (1998) ’Thomas More ja hänen utopiansa.’ In Itkonen-Kaila, M. (ed) Utopia, Thomas More. Juva: WSOY, pp. 7-21.

Jackson, P. (1998) ‘Constructions of ‘whiteness’ in the geographical imagination.’ Area, 30(2), pp. 99-106.

Johnson, R. (2011) ‘The Use of Satire in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.’ JCCC Honors Journal, 2(2), pp. 1-4.

Kadanoga, L. (1998) ‘Strange countries and secret worlds in Ruth Rendell's crime novels.’ Geographical Review, 88(3), pp. 413-428.

Kautsky, K. (1927) Thomas More and his Utopia. Trans. Stenning, H. J. London: AC Black,

Kneale, J. (2010) ‘Counterfactualism, utopia, and historical geography: Kim Stanley Robinson's The years of rice and salt.’ Journal of Historical Geography, 36(3), pp. 297-304.

Lees, L. and Baxter, R. (2011) ‘A ‘building event’ of fear: thinking through the geography of architecture.’ Social & Cultural Geography, 12(2), pp. 107-122.

Kumar, K. (2003) Aspects of western utopian tradition. History of human sciences 16(1), pp. 63-67.

Kumar, K. (2013) ‘The Future of Utopia.’ In Da Silva, B. (ed) Epistemology of utopia: rhetoric, theory and imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 94-117.

Leiss, W. (1976) The Limits to Satisfaction: An Essay on the Problem of Needs and Commodities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Levitas, R. (2010) The Concept of Utopia. New York: Peter Lang.

Luoto, I., and Karhu, M. (2018) ’Utopiakirjallisuus ja aluekehittämisen paradoksit.’ Terra, 130(3), pp. 113-125.

Marcuse, H. (1955) Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon Press.

Marcuse, H. (1968) One Dimensional Man. London: Sphere books.

More, T. (1516/2007) Utopia by Sir Thomas More. Sioux Falls: NuVision Publications.

Moylan, T. (2014) Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination, ed. Baccolini, R. Oxford: Peter Lang AG.

Mårtensson, B. (1991) ‘The Paradoxes of Utopia A Study in Utopian Rationalism.’ Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 21(4), pp. 476-514.

Noxolo, P. and Preziuso, M. (2013) ‘Postcolonial imaginations: Approaching a “fictionable” world through the novels of Maryse Condé and Wilson Harris.’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(1), pp. 163-179.

Olwig, K. R. (1981) ‘Literature and ‘reality’: The Transformation of the Jutland Heath.’ In Pocock, D. C. D. (ed) Humanistic Geography and Literature: Esseys on the Experience of Place. London: Croom Helm, pp. 47-65.

Orwell, G. (1949/2008). 1984. London: Penguin Books.

Panagopoulos, N. (2016) ‘Brave new world and the scientific dictatorship: utopia or dystopia?’ Comparatismi, 1. [Online] [Accessed 10 October 2019]

Rai, A. (1990) Orwell and the politics of despair: A Critical study of the writings of George Orwell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ridanpää, J. (2007) ‘Laughing at northernness: Postcolonialism and metafictive irony in the imaginative geography.’ Social & Cultural Geography, 8(6), pp. 907-928.

Ridanpää, J. (2010) ‘Metafictive geography.’ Culture, Theory & Critique, 51(1), pp. 47-63.

Ridanpää, J. (2017) ‘Imaginative Regions.’ In Tally, R. Jr. (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space. New York & London: Routledge, pp. 187-194.

Ridanpää, J. (2018) ‘Fact and Fiction: Metafictive Geography and Literary GIS.’ Literary Geographies, 4(2), pp. 141-145.

Sargent, L. T. (1994) ‘The three faces of utopianism revisited.’ Utopian studies, 5(1), pp. 1-37.

Sargent, L. T. (2010) Utopianism: Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schlosser, K. (2015) ‘Apocalyptic imaginaries, Gramsci, and the last man on earth.’ GeoHumanities, 1(2), pp. 307-320.

Schatzberg, E. (2018) Technology: critical history of a concept. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schmid, D. (1995) ‘Imagining safe urban space: the contribution of detective fiction to radical geography.’ Antipode, 27(3), pp. 242-269.

Silk, J. (1984) ‘Beyond geography and literature.’ Environment and planning D: Society and Space, 2(2), pp. 151-178.

Skinner, Q. (2009) ‘Political Philosophy.’ In Schmitt, C. B. and Skinner, Q. (eds) The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 389-452.

Surtz, E. L. (1949) ‘Thomas More and Communism.’ Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 64(3), pp. 549-564.

Suvin, D. (1973) ‘Defining the literary genre of Utopia: some historical semantics, some genology, a proposal and a plea.’ Studies in the Literary Imagination, 6(2), p. 121.

Thrift, N. (1983) ‘Literature, the production of culture and the politics of place.’ Antipode 15(1), pp. 12-24.

Tuan, Y.-F. (1977) Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tyner, J. A. (2004) ‘Self and space, resistance and discipline: a Foucauldian reading of George Orwell's 1984.’ Social & Cultural Geography, 5(1), pp. 129-149.

Vorlander, K. (1924) Geschichte der Sozialistischen Ideen. Breslau: Verlag Ferdinand Hirt.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Mikko Karhu, Juha Ridanpää