The Politics of Utopias and Dystopias

Humanities & Social Sciences
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 3300
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
Literary utopias and dystopias are critical mirrors of governments and societies. Such writings reflect cultural responses to changing values and beliefs, the desire for a better future, or fear of great dysfunction -- but they are all intrinsically political. This course will examine how utopian and dystopian works are powerful commentaries on political and social relationships. It will show how such works can enhance students' abilities to discuss and assess current political issues and to formulate and reflect on their own ideas of what constitute a good society.
Course Content

Course outlines may include the following general topics, but may also vary according to the instructor's selection and expertise, such as

  • introducing debate over the relationship between the requirements of justice and morality and limits of persons and institutions to meet them;
  • examining the benefits and problems of utopian or idealistic thinking, e.g., is utopian thought relevant today?
  • exploring the benefits and problems of dystopian thinking, e.g., does such thinking reinforce the status quo?
  • discussing what makes utopian and dystopias believable or not believable;
  • understanding how utopias and dystopias are based on similar themes -- e.g., chaos versus conformity, freedom versus order, change versus stasis -- but through different means;
  • surveying utopias and dystopias as alternative ways to apply political concepts such as power, authority, and justice;
  • assessing how governments and social institutions are shaped by utopian and dystopian tendencies.
Learning Activities

Instructional methods will involve the use of formal lectures, textual analysis, film reviews, structured group projects, individual presentations, and/or in-class discussion of assigned materials. Other interactive media and materials may be used.

Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be based on course objectives and in accordance with the policies of Douglas College and the Department of Political Science. Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor in course outlines. One example of an appropriate evaluation system would be the following:

Short Papers (30%)

Term Paper (30%)

Exams (20%)

Participation (10%)

Presentations (10%)

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, successful students will demonstrate researching, writing, critical thinking, and communications skills appropriate to the course by

  • understanding how utopian and dystopian thinking contributes to political ideas;
  • exploring alternative ways how such thinking influences political practices and institutions;
  • comparing and evaluating utopian ideals and dystopian ideas to assess their benefits and dangers.
Textbook Materials

Sources will be selected based on instructor expertise and preference and in consultation with the Department of Political Science. Some examples include:

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2011).

Carey, John. The Faber Book of Utopias (London: Faber and Faber, 1999).

Gordin, Michael D., Helen Tilley, and Gyan Prakash, eds. Utopian/Dystopia: Conditions of Historical Possibility (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World (Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007).

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).

Milton, John. Paradise Lost, ed. Gordon Teskey (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).

More, Sir Thomas. Utopia, trans. David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1999).

Orwell, George. 1984 (London: Penguin Books, 2013).

Weber, Michael and Kevin Vallier, eds. Political Utopias: Contemporary Debates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Additional readings may be placed on library reserve, Blackboard, or via selected websites and databases such as EBSCO.



Any 1100-level political science course or permission of the instructor.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for POLI 3300
Athabasca University (AU) AU POLI 3XX (3)
Camosun College (CAMO) CAMO PSC 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU POL 315 (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR POLI 3XX (3)
Columbia College (COLU) COLU PSCI 2nd (3)
Emily Carr University of Art & Design (EC) EC HUMN 300 lev (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU POLI 3XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG POLI 2XXX (3)
LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) LCV POL 3XX (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) NLC POLI 2XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU POL 3XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU POLI 3XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU POLS 3XX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW POLI 3XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV POLI 3rd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC POLS 3XX (3)
Vancouver Community College (VCC) No credit
Vancouver Community College (VCC) VCC POLI 2XXX (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023