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What is the difference between dystopia and utopia??


Actually, depending on who you are and your perspective on things, a utopia and a dystopia could be the same. However, by strict definition, a utopia and a dystopia are meant to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum.


In the strictest sense of the word, a utopia is:

An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Oxford Online Dictionary

It is interesting to note that when people talk about a utopian society, they often skip over the imaginary part and go straight to how perfect, happy and beautiful such a place would be. This is a huge oversight, as to date, no one has been able to create the perfect society, and many who have tried have at best disbanded after years of misery, or ended in tragedy.

The word was first used by Sir Thomas More in his book, Utopia (1516), wherein he describes an island in the New World where conditions were said to be perfect socially, economically and politically.

Ironically, as suggested above, a feature of Utopian life included households having two slaves, who are either criminals of Utopia, or people from neighboring countries. As alluded to this could be one aspect of a Utopia that would be more dystopian for the slaves than for the slave owners.

The book also describes a welfare state, euthanasia, punishments for adulterers (slavery), and while supposedly equal to men, women are largely limited to the performance of household chores.


The definition of a dystopia is:

An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

Again we see the use of 'an imagined place' when describing a dystopia, but in reality, dystopias tend to exist for more people than a utopia would, since the utopia generally benefits the few.

Dystopians are often characterized by society-wide suffering, levels of injustice and can be despotic or totalitarian in nature. They can also be post-apocalyptic, which is perhaps the most common form in modern literature.

Examples of such dystopian literature include:

The Hunger Games trilogy

The Maze Runner series

The Divergent trilogy

The Giver

In each case, some world war, or global epidemic has devastated humanity and caused those who survived to grab for power and try to maintain some form of law and order through often extremely strict polices and iron fist enforcement., all in the name of survival, and sometimes meant to instill harmony and unity, though neither typically happen.

The reason for that is, typically, the human spirit rises, and while creating death, destruction and thus tragedy in the interim, eventually, the fight for freedom is won.

It could be argued that dystopias have actually existed under such regimes led by Adolph Hitler, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and others. Any country where some or most of the people are oppressed by tyrannical or communistic rule can be considered dystopian.


Both are hypothetical renditions of the future. They are the product of our imaginations as to what the state of affairs of the earth and humans in general would be, either as a relation to our environment, our fellow humans, or even to some extent, to beings from other planets.

The major difference between a dystopia and a utopia is the condition of that feature. Whereas a utopian rendition tends to paint more lively and optimistic picture--where humans are better off in their general living conditions, more technologically advanced, more in tune with their environment, and or with other species they might have come in contact with, a dystopian future is mostly bleak and dreary.

A common theme in a dystopia is to make humanity half extinct or in such terrible living conditions that they all turn against each other and live in pseudo-cannibalistic community where it is one man for himself and kill or be killed.

An example of this is the Mad Max series of movies. The Dystopian element that pervades the film here is that earth has become a desolate wasteland. There is scarcity of pretty much every natural resources and means of subsistence. (Which is another common dystopian theme. Resources are scarce and few and far between.)

Another commom theme in dystopian works is the presence of a totalotarian overlord who is mostly cruel and has control over all the terribly scarce resources in the land. In Mad Max' s Dystopia the overlord is Mimortem Joe, and he has A LOT of wives with which he breeds because breeding new humans has become an arduous task. Most new born babies come out deformed or paralysed or with a disability or the other.

You can see how bleak and gruesome such a future is--that is Dystopia!

Another example of a dystopian work of fiction is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell' s Nineteen Eighty Four. In both novels humanity has fallen into a future even more terrifying and bleak than the ones in Mad Max. I say this because in Mad Max the bleakness of the evil the future is more physical and palpable whereas in George Orwell's novel and Aldous Huxley's novel the evil is less physical, and more psychological.

There is also a supreme worshiped overlord in both--Mustapha Mond for Aldous Huxley and Big Brother for George Orwell--but whereas in Mad Max the environment is a wasteland, in both these novels the environments are actually thriving. The technologies are better and things go ostensibly great. But it is the mind that is in fetters.

All individuality is gone. Thinking is collective. Monotony is the order of the day. Creativity has either been stultified or completely erased. Both goes to show that technology isn't the only more of advancement. In fact it is one of the least propitious as mass media and other technological devices may be employed by evil dictators more to their own evil ends than for good.

An example of a utopian novel, however, is -- I can't think of one. I guess I haven't read as far as i thought. But I guess the reason for this is that most writers tend to write more about the dystopian futures then utopian ones. And the reason for this is all tolapparent. It's all around us. Inventions of new technology that makes immense wide scale brainwashing possible; with the environmental degradation that happens everyday around us and the obliviousness of people towards it, you'd agree that is not such a far-fetched consideration that the future will end up being one large wasteland where everybody isn't capable of free thought.

And then again there are general bending categories. That is stories that can't be easily classified into either the utopian category or the dystopian category. This kind of story is usually share elements of each. They take different aspect of a utopia and dystopia and make one beautiful world with it.

An example of this is Aldous Huxley's Island. This novel set in the future, and in this future there's a beautiful paradise where everybody has learnt to be at peace with themselves and learnt to control their spirit and soul and their mind.

This is a utopia.

The dystopian element however comes from the fact that other countries haven't achieved this kind of serenity, and are hell bent on invading this beautiful island and corrupting it so to speak with their terrible ideologies. And of course this is a sign of a dystopia. So this is why island can be referred to as a genre bending story that incorporates a utopia and dystopia in the same book.

To recap all what I said, in summary, a utopia is a consideration of a future where human beings are much better off than they are now in relation to their environment and their fellow human. While a dystopian is the exact opposite, that is humanity is worse off than it js. Now the uniting element to notice is that they both have to be set in the future and the situation must be considerably different than it is at the moment.



First of all we must know that utopia is the human projection of an ideal world, that is to say, it is the conception of an ideal world developed by this or that person and that will depend clearly on his motivations, experiences, among others, which are what lead him to build in his mind that ideal world. It is worth pointing out that a utopia, ironically, carries with it the impossibility of realizing that world as it is thought. That is to say, it is a utopia not only because one thinks of the existence of an ideal world, but also because the existence of that world is impossible.

To give an example, my utopia is to live in a developed world, with all services, without delinquency, corruption, hunger, pollution or barriers, but that is impossible to do because we live in a world where these problems are increasingly accentuated. 

Dystopia, on the other hand, is the creation of an unwanted world. In other words, it is the opposite of utopia. Dystopian worlds is an imaginary representation of a society of the future whose characteristics are undesirable. Don't be confused, dystopia has nothing to do with devastated cities in ruins, without electricity and zombies. Both utopia and dystopia refer to a society, not to the circumstances of the world around it. A utopia can exist in a devastated city; while a dystopia can arise under the appearance of a futuristic, perfect and wonderful place, as is the case of A happy world, by Aldous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

or 1984, by George Orwell. What determines utopia and dystopia is the consciousness and the way of living in these societies. 

In conclusion: dystopia is the opposite of utopia. In utopia, man imagines a world where doctrines are harmoniously coupled in the functioning of societies, his world ideal is perfection; in dystopia, on the other hand, chaos and the fatal involution of man is a frightening and undesirable reality. There is neither harmony nor well-being, they are only apocalyptic futures.


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