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One of the overlooked aspects of political utopianism is the mechanism which brings about the utopia. What brings about the change from the ordinary politics of the present to the utopian state? For Thomas Paine the change is apocalyptic. Paine’s later writing testifies to the sudden birth of reason in the world and foresees its sweeping effect over individual human minds and human societies. He describes reason as an irresistible revelation, an apocalypse. Evaluating the American and French revolutions, Paine identifies the mechanism of change as the rational apocalypse itself. On the one hand, this mechanism of change shatters the coherence of Paine’s comprehensive thought. On the other, Paine’s utopianism is both thought-provoking and cautionary. To what extent can reason enlighten individuals to their true interests in harmony with others? To what extent do utopian plans for society rely on something miraculous or apocalyptic to change human consciousness? Should political utopianism purport to fix the problems of the world now, or is it primarily a device for imagining a better world which future generations might slowly construct?


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  • Subject
    • Political Science & International Affairs

  • Event date
    • 1 March 2014

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords