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The Politics of Utopias and Dystopias

Course Code: POLI 3300
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Political Science
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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.

Methods of Instruction

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.

course prerequisites

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

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.