Oscar Wilde said that any map that doesn’t have utopia on it is not worth looking at. There are few quotes I’ve cited as often or with as much pleasure as this one. Yet, there is something in the sweeping nature of the claim that has always left me unsatisfied. In examining utopian thinking, I will also try to distinguish what is valid and useful in Wilde’s claim from what is not
Sol Yurick writes radical novels, good ones, and loves to speculate on how culture gets inside people’s bones. In the early 1970s, Sol and I spend a lot of time musing over Monopoly, a game many leftists love to hate, others hate to love, and practically everybody plays. According to Shelly Berman, the comedian, “Monopoly evokes a unique emotion, the surge of thrill you get when you know you’ve wiped out a friend.” But what else is going on as we accumulate property and scheme how to beggar our neighbors? Are we simply expressing some atavistic urge for power, or tuning in, consciously or unconsciously, to the attitudes that are most highly prized in our business-oriented society?