The Culture, from the Iain M Banks novels, seems to be a merger between a utopia and a dystopia. Is this a new phenomenon or do other examples exist?

  • Is this a question about the source cultures of the Culture (discussed from time to time---there are several) or about earlier High Level Involved powers? – dmckee Sep 13 '11 at 21:55
  • No, I mean in literature. E.g. Ashers Commonwealth is also half utopia half dystopia but it is published later than The culture. – aquaherd Sep 13 '11 at 22:02
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    BTW--I don't really buy the Culture as dystopian. Conflicted, sure. Trapped between their image of themselves and a galaxy that is often Not Nice (tm), absolutely. Not ideal for everyone, yup. But not dystopian. Not when people can and do leave either a little bit or wholesale. – dmckee Sep 13 '11 at 22:07
  • Isn't this basically a recommendation question then? I think we may want to try out this suggested methodology to answer the question. – user1027 Sep 14 '11 at 3:07
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    I think the very existence of Jernau 'Morat' Gurgeh renders the culture dystopian. – aquaherd Sep 15 '11 at 20:59

Utopia by Thomas More, which coined the word and created the concept, but in fact has some dystopian elements as well (especially if you're a devout Catholic, as most people were at the time).

And before that, The Republic by Plato.

  • Great answer! I assumed that utopias in literature were always spotless and dystopias always bleak. I didn't see any dystopian aspects in Thomas Morus' Utopia when I read it - must reread it with the devout Catholic glasses on. – aquaherd Sep 15 '11 at 20:57

How about Brave New World? Or Orson Scott Card's Worthing Saga. (Note that I also don't agree with the characterization of the Culture as dystopian.)

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    Brave new World is a pure dystopia, isn't it? – aquaherd Sep 15 '11 at 21:01
  • I would agree with aquaherd, I'm not sure there is much Utopia there. – Toby Allen Feb 12 '12 at 19:58
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    @TobyAllen quoting from wikipedia on the society: "an eternally peaceful, stable global society in which goods and resources are plentiful [...] and everyone is happy." Sounds somewhat utopian to me. – so12311 Feb 12 '12 at 20:25
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    By the purely materialistic definition, BNW is a utopia in that the majority of citizens (including Epsilons) experience no hardship in material wealth or through societal instability. Whether the system is equitable is another matter. – b. e. hollenbeck Jun 8 '14 at 19:43

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