A utopia is a prospective ideal society. Socio-political schemes are considered particularly "utopian" when they are perceived to fail to give due regard to human nature, economic law, or any other primary consideration.
Ludwig von Mises, in discussing social philosophy before the advent of economic science, wrote:
"Other philosophers were more realistic. They did not try to guess the designs of Nature or God. They looked at human things from the viewpoint of government. They were intent upon establishing rules of political action, a technique, as it were, of government and statesmanship. Speculative minds drew ambitious plans for a thorough reform and reconstruction of society. The more modest were satisfied with a collection and systematization of the data of historical experience. But all were fully convinced that there was in the course of social events no such regularity and invariance of phenomena as had already been found in the operation of human reasoning and in the sequence of natural phenomena. They did not search for the laws of social cooperation because they thought that man could organize society as he pleased. If social conditions did not fulfill the wishes of the reformers, if their utopias proved unrealizable, the fault was seen in the moral failure of man. Social problems were considered ethical problems. What was needed in order to construct the ideal society, they thought, were good princes and virtuous citizens. With righteous men any utopia might be realized."
The tradition that Mises discusses above goes as far back as Plato's socio-political scheme in The Republic. Other notable pre-economic-science utopian reform theorists have been Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Bacon.
- Ludwig von Mises, "Introduction, 1. Economics and Praxeology", Human Action, online edition, referenced 2010-02-05.
- Murray N. Rothbard, "Plato's Right-wing Collectivist Utopia", It all began, as usual, with the Greeks, Excerpted from An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, vol. 1, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith" (1995), referenced 2010-02-07.]
- Sir Thomas More, Utopia ("Etext")
- Sir Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis ("Etext")