FUNCTIONS AND CLAIMS OF UTOPIA

This is a comparative table of the social functions of media, utopia, history, and art, compiled from several authors, listed below. 'Functionalism' is often rejected in the social sciences, a rejection which may be politically motivated. The table of uses gives an indication, at least, of the political claims of utopia. For a comparison, see the listed claims of nationalism. Compiled 1999.

Comparative functions of media, utopia, art, and history.

Uses of mediaUses of utopiaNo.Uses of historyUses of art
EscapeEscape from an unpleasant reality, quest for the Holy Grail or paradise1...Escapist, utopian
Societal mobilization, co-ordination, consensus Blueprint for a better society, promotion of British imperialism 2......
Comment A better society which later might exist - speculation, antennae sensitive to the future, vision of the ending of hunger. Age-old needs of man laid bare3......
Signpost, mirrorA rational construction for moral instruction, rationalist discourse about ideal city4... Role-models, goal-defining, esthethic norms
Entertainment Scholarly fable (elite amusement) 5Aesthetic improvment of the past Promoting confidence, pride sense of purpose
Explaining and interpreting Reflection of specific crises it presumes to resolve, alignment with one side in social conflict 6...Enactment of defiance, legitimizing violence, crystallizing identity using a work to take a stand
Comment, social amnesia A reconstruction of past ideal societies 7Cleaning up the past, concealing discord, retrospective success...
Commonality of values
integration, continuity, reducing social tension
Idealisation of existing society, social self-adulation, mending schisms in Christian world 8Nationalism, reinforce identity, alter position of ethnic groups Strengthens social cohesion, heightening sense of solidarity, self-confidence, pride, purpose, shared pride in the creativity of the culture,legitimizing
Social amnesia ... 9 ... Fulfillment of erotic wishes, vicarious experience of victory, fulfillment of ego-drives
Screen or barrier
Filter
... 10 Exclude aliens
Denigrate rivals
...
Security through knowledge, comforting myths Coping with anxieties/potentialities of post-industrial societies11 Solace in insecurity Counteracting anxieties
Support for authority, norms ... 12 Political stabilisation by construction of history Identity through identification with an artist or fictional character
Providing information, platform, carrier, window ... 13 Mass product, repetition ...
Interactive link ... 14 ... ...
Nostalgia Idealized descriptions of historical societies 15 Content for the media Heightening sense of solidarity, self-confidence, pride, purpose, commemoration
... Apocalyptic/millenarian view
Society constructed as an opposite as a form of social criticism
16 ... Contesting, challenging the status quo, helping to propagate and consolidate a counter-culture


Sources

Media

McQuail D. Mass Communication Theory: An Introduction London 1987 (reality deviation, 196; mediation, 52-53; functions, 71-73)

Utopia

Ames, Russell CitizenThomas More and his utopia Princeton NJ 1959, 5
Armytage W. H.Yesterday's tomorrows : a historical survey of future societies. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968, 13.
Manuel, F & Manuel, F Utopian thought in the Western world Cambridge Mass. 1979, 21-25, 803-808.

History

Lowenthal, D The past is a foreign country Cambridge 1985, 331-358
Schörken, Rolf Geschichte in der Alltagswelt: wie uns Geschichte begegnet und was wir mit ihr machen Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981, 159-163.

Art

Raskin, Richard The functional analysis of art Arhus 1983: "Le chant des partisans" 168-187, overview 90-91.


Utopia and extra-terrestrials