undesirable state of society
A dystopia (from Ancient Greek δυσ- "bad" and τόπος "place"; alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as "bad place" and is an antonym of utopia, a term that was coined by Sir Thomas More and figures as the title of his best known work, published 1516, a blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence and poverty.
Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, tyrannical governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many fictional works and artistic representations particularly in stories set in the future. Some of the most famous examples are George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science or technology. Some authors use the term to refer to existing societies, many of which are or have been totalitarian states or societies in an advanced state of collapse.
Some scholars, such as Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent, make certain distinctions between typical synonyms of dystopias. For example, Claeys and Sargent define literary dystopias as societies imagined as substantially worse than the society in which the author writes, whereas anti-utopias function as criticisms of attempts to implement various concepts of utopia.
In his Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2017) Claeys offers a more nuanced and historical approach to these definitions. Here the tradition is traced from early reactions to the French Revolution. Its commonly anti-collectivist character is stressed, and the addition of other themes (the dangers of science and technology, of social inequality, of corporate dictatorship, of nuclear war) are also traced.
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