Social Liberal Utopias and Dystopias

Social Liberal Utopias

Civil liberties, feminism, free love, and/or legal drugs – with a cuddly welfare state to keep it all safe. It sounds like fun, and yes, I have a few fun reads for you. Given the subject matter, many of the reads are not all suitable for the young, and I cannot endorse some of the morals, herein. Caveats aside, here we go:

Click images for more info and/or to buy.

Norman Spinrad’s Child of Fortune [18+] is a coming of age story in a hedonic star-faring future where one is expected to be a wandering hippie before deciding upon a career. To do otherwise is to be a wage slave. This novel features some of the most beautiful writing ever in science fiction, with a future language that blends German and Sanskrit into English. College lit professors should definitely check this one out. The story also portrays a very interesting approach to welfare suitable for a minimalist state, that is worth studying regardless of whether you accept Spinrad’s hedonism or not.

Beautiful princess need barbarian warrior to help her save the empire so she comes to earth to recruit the hero of the story – a Vietnam War veteran. The first half of Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road [17+] is a fun twist on sword and sorcery fiction. The second half is the hero’s struggle to live happily ever after in what Heinlein considers to be a truly civilized world, a world which regards the U.S. of the early 1960s much as we in the West regard the Middle East today.

Finally, for the feminists in the audience, we have an interesting take on sustainable peace through extreme feminism in Glory Season by David Brin. This is not a true utopian novel, as the author criticizes the society he invents as much as he praises it. But the mechanism by which he makes the society sustainable is so interesting that I have to include this somewhere.

For more lefty dreams see the economic leftist utopias. For more pleasant dreams of liberty see the libertarian utopias.

Social Liberal Dystopias and Satire

Civil liberties, free love, feminism, legal drugs…what could go wrong? A fair amount, actually.

Let’s start with hallucinogenic drugs. What happens if corporations get really good at making hallucinogens – so good that you can buy a pill to hallucinate specific experiences? Answer: you get a hilarious dystopia that’s easily as funny as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The number of puns that survive Polish to English translation is truly stunning.

What are the long term consequences of hedonism and a welfare safety net? Darwin’s theory says there could be problems. C.M. Kornbluth broached the problem in his story “The Marching Morons.” I link to the complete set of his short stories in the pic, as they contain quite a few other utopias and dystopias. It's hard to believe they all came from the same author. Kornbluth was more into playing with ideas than advocay.

For a delightfully crude take on the problem see the movie Idiocracy. When you are done laughing, have a look at some of the recent presidential debates. We may be almost there...

Sexual hedonists like legal abortion to clean up certain inconvenient results. But what happens when we combine advanced biotechnology with lack of legal status for the not-yet-human? Frank Herbert explores the grim consequences in the backdrop of Destination Void. (Whether he meant this to be an anti-abortion novel is unknown to me.)

Imagine a society where free love and drugs are mandatory and “mother” is an unspeakable cuss word? Such is the scenario in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Some consider this a classic.

For a more entertaining take on the same theme, watch the movie Logan’s Run. Do note the elegant alternative to Social Security. We might end up resorting to something similar if we don't get the federal budget deficit under control soon.

And finally, how about some light satire of legalism, civil liberties, and goody-goodies? Bat satire, that is! If you only saw the original Batman TV show as a kid, then you didn’t get half the jokes. Get a copy for your kids or grandkids and watch them again. They’re IN COLOR!

To see other visions of where freedom could go wrong, see the libertarian dystopias and satires. To see other modes where that cuddly welfare safety net might go wrong peruse the economic leftist dystopias and satires.

(The book and movie links are affiliate links. The reviews are genuine.)