Date of Award
Master of Arts
In this thesis I explore the place of the actualized utopian American alternative community of higher learning within a philosophy of human culture. I carry out such a study in order to articulate a unifying description of movement; to find the “target” that orients the activity of actualized utopia, as opposed to a classificatory rule to define a mechanically determined utopian-object. Although these communities have varied in practice since the first generation of them were created in the mid-nineteenth century, I argue that they have played, and continue to play, a particular role in America. They imagine what a world beyond their own could look like; and through their resistance to the perceived status quo (on which they rely for their identity), they prefigure a world that could be. Although this world never comes fully into existence, the actualization (i.e., the process of becoming a dynamic symbolic product of culture) of these communities illuminates new possibilities for human life in the larger culture. While these actualized utopian communities often live long beyond their pre-figurative years, paradoxically their practices largely stay the same. A resistance to the perceived modern culture, and a vision of a world that offers more opportunities for life and dignity, has made these communities places that cultivate persons with a sense of agency. These communities create a sense of active consciousness; they create people who believe the world is changeable. An open humanistic and personalistic theodicy is what distinguishes these schools from a cult of domination, or an organization bent on a utopia that depersonalizes and dehumanizes the opportunities of others in service of a singular vision.
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