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? Sep 13, 2011 at 21:55
  • 1
    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, 2011 at 22:02
  • 6
    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. Sep 13, 2011 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, 2011 at 3:07
  • 1
    I think the very existence of Jernau 'Morat' Gurgeh renders the culture dystopian.
    – aquaherd
    Sep 15, 2011 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


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, 2011 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.)

  • 2
    Brave new World is a pure dystopia, isn't it?
    – aquaherd
    Sep 15, 2011 at 21:01
  • I would agree with aquaherd, I'm not sure there is much Utopia there.
    – Toby Allen
    Feb 12, 2012 at 19:58
  • 2
    @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, 2012 at 20:25
  • 2
    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. Jun 8, 2014 at 19:43

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.