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Deepening the Irony of Utopia: An Economic Perspective


  • Samuel Bostaph


Until recently, St. Thomas More's Utopia generally had been regarded as a serious work of social criticism and the expression of his social ideal, although there are widely differing views of More's specific intent in writing it. As many have argued, Utopia addresses a crucial politico/economic question: what is the best way of life? Historians of economic thought in particular have taken the work at face value and, with few exceptions, have given it short shrift. Other scholars within the humanities have examined it more seriously and at greater length, a few even raising the question of possible ironic or satirical intent, given that irony was one of More's characteristic rhetorical devices. Gerard Wegemer's recent interpretation that More's main purpose in writing Utopia was ironic places major emphasis on the element of irony that pervades the work. This article adds economic arguments to existing literary and biographical ones to buttress this assessment that Utopia is an irony, written to undercut rather than to advance the idealization of a communist social order.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bostaph, 2010. "Deepening the Irony of Utopia: An Economic Perspective," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 361-382, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:42:y:2010:i:2:p:361-382

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    St. Thomas More; Utopia; communism;


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