Dystopia, also called anti-utopia and matopia, is the counterpart of positive utopia (cf. eutopia). Dystopia is a narrative which shows a negative distortion of future humanity. This future is characterized by a society that has developed into a negative one. Frequent themes are the enslavement of mankind and, in general, the circumcision of all freedoms, which is often caused by an overpowering technique which has been designed by man himself, but will no longer be handled in the future. In addition, dystopia often shows the totalitarian state and its power, with only small groups enjoying privileges and lower and middle class living standards below the level of contemporary societies. There is often a protagonist in these dystopias, who inquires about these social conditions and feels that something is in the arrogance, in which case he rebels against the system or the rulers.
The term is composed of the ancient Greek prefix dys- (δυς), which can be translated with misbehave, evil or evil, and the noun tópos (τόπος), which means place together. Thus the dystopia is a bad place. What is decisive, however, is that the term is used above all as a counterpart to utopia, which, however, may seem paradoxical in the real word.
Utopia is, in fact, a non-place (from ancient Greek for “non-” and tópos for “place”), and therefore means the design of a fictive, mostly future, social order. However, the term is mostly used for good and positive social images, which is actually taken by the notion of eutopia. According to this, utopia would be the epitome of eutopia and dystopia, while dystopia and eutopia constitute actual antitheses. In the following article, however, utopia is understood to be the counterpart of dystopia following the general language usage.
Overview: Characteristics of dystopia
Dystopia can often be interpreted as a critique of the social conditions of a time, since it shows which possible, but not yet real, conditions could become a reality in the future. In most cases, it uses scientific knowledge and is critical of it, which attacks technological developments and similar tendencies.
The first literary dystopias are found only in the course of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century. Although in the literary epochs there were critical voices, which were directed against progress or the natural sciences in general, there were previously no written visions of the future in the literature which showed a negative social picture, which was due to progress and the sciences ,
This destruction of the belief in progress, which was then literally processed, can be determined mainly by four points. 1) The technical development took on an unprecedented scale, which at times appeared frightening, for the first time humans were replaced by machines. 2) The years between 1890 and 1914 are consequently determined by a very specific feeling of life in many areas: an essential feature is a downfall mood. This was mainly due to the approaching epoch change. This tendency to decay manifested itself in a pessimistic view of the world, a strong weariness of life, but equally in future euphoria, but also in the future, as well as a turn against progress and, consequently, against naturalism (see Fin de Siècle). 3) The habitable areas and areas in general were in the hands of persons, organizations, institutions and governments: the economic and habitable space was therefore perceived as limited and divided for the first time, 4) many countries were increasingly managed more centrally to a small circle.
Principles of dystopian societies. There are usually several of the features in dystopias.
Industry and economy work with maximum efficiency. The surplus produced is either consumed by a lavish population, flows into martial disputes or is exploited by the (technical) authorities. In general, the reality shown is enormously progressive and modern.
On the surface, a utopian image is designed. The world is free from diseases, poverty, conflict and emotional problems. On the second view, however, it becomes clear that these privileges are only possible through comprehensive social restrictions, violence and abuse of power against persons, groups or societies.
Many branches of industry and corporations that produce / promote life are privatized and are therefore not regulated by state supervision. The consequence is often that the lower classes of this society – since they can not afford the supply – have no access to water or similar things.
The different strata of society are clearly defined and distinct. In most cases, this is lacking in permeability, which means that the change between the different layers is hardly possible or is completely forbidden. Consequently, the inhabitants of the dystopian order are usually born into their role, which is usually associated with certain tasks and privileges.
The system is run by a small group, which belongs to a privileged upper class. The gradient to the other layers is particularly clear – the upper class is characterized by an enormous luxury, has access to luxury goods and food – other parts of the population often resort to food supplements or inferior food. Moreover, the lowest strata have no (political) linguistic right in relation to decisions.
Frequently the individuality of the individual is curtailed, whereby it is often the case that education, their own thoughts and views – which might possibly attack the system – are strictly prohibited and forbidden. This prohibition is often anchored in the individual group, fearing to express one’s own thoughts and not questioning why it is so and thus adapts itself.
A gigantic propaganda apparatus often protects the population against the state. This is often symbolized by a single leader figure, which is revered to a high degree, sometimes even adored (cf. Apotheosis). This worship is made clear by a large person cult (statues, posters etc).
The upper class gives and lives that their own system is the only thing that is right and good: consequently, the rest of the world, which is not part of the system, detests and “fears”. These views are imposed on the masses of the masses, with some state apparatuses prescribing what may be thought or accepted at all. This is ensured by militarized police forces and a legal system which lacks the “just” jurisprudence. It is also striking that often a developed middle layer, which could question the whole thing, is missing.
If there is a reality outside the system, it is mostly pretended by the rulers. In doing so, external enemy images are designed which endanger the survival of society, and it is necessary to be more subject to the ideas and ideals of the system, thus creating an external pressure and constructing an external threat to preserve the internal structures.
Frequent Topics / Contents: Population explosion, enormous scientific progress, enslavement of humanity / oppression of certain strata, destruction or restriction of man’s freedom, ongoing threat / war state, sometimes post-apocalyptic scenario.
Dystopia examples (literature)
Chronological overview of literary dystopias
The Grand Inquisitor of Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (1880)
The time machine of H. G. Wells (1895)
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson (1907)
The Island of the Penguins of Anatole France (1908)
The other side of Alfred Kubin (1909)
We of Yevgeny Ivanovich Samjatin (1920)
The Power of the Three by Hans Dominik (1922)
Mountains, Seas and Giants by Alfred Döblin (1924)
Chevengur by Andrei Platonovich Platonov (1929)
The excavation of Andrei Platonowitsch Platonow (1930)
Beautiful New World (Brave New World) by Aldous Huxley (1932)
The war with the pigs of Karel Čapek (1936)
Night of the Brown Shadows (Swastika Night) by Katharine Burdekin (1937)
Kallocain by Karin Boye (1940)
1984 by George Orwell (1948)
The Mars Chronicles of Ray Bradbury (1950)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
I’m Legend (I am Legend) by Richard Matheson (1954)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
The scholarly republic of Arno Schmidt (1957)
Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick (1959)
Clockwork Orange (A Clockwork Orange) by Anthony Burgess (1962)
Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye (1964)
New York 1999 (Make Room! Make Room!) By Harry Harrison (1966)
Morning World of John Brunner (1968)
Dreaming androids of electric sheep? (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?) By Philip K. Dick (1968)
The Guardians of John Christopher (1970)
The Army Camp of Saints by Jean Raspail (1973)
Oxygenes of Klára Fehér (1974)
Another World by Philip K. Dick (1974)
The Dispossessed Planet by Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)
Judge Dredd by John Wagner (1977)
The Dark Screen by Philip K. Dick (1977)
The Death March by Stephen King (1979)
Hunt by Stephen King (1982)
V like Vendetta by Alan Moore (since 1982)
Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Moscow 2042 by Vladimir Woinovich (1986)
Watchmen by Alan Moore (1986/87)
Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow (1989)
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo (1990)
Sin City by Frank Miller (1991)
Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (1992)
Morbus Kitahara by Christoph Ransmayr (1995)
The Domination by S. M. Stirling (1999)
Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro (2000)
Oryx and Crake (Oryx and Crake) by Margaret Atwood (2003)
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)
The master code of Scott McBain (2005)
Traveler (The Traveler) by John Twelve Hawks (2005)
Metro 2033 by Dmitri Alexejewitsch Gluchowski (2005)
School of the unemployed by Joachim Zelter (2006)
I will be here in the sunshine and in the shadow of Christian Kracht (2008)
The Street of Cormac McCarthy (2008)
Corpus Delicti: A Process of July Zeh (2009)
The Tribute of Panem by Suzanne Collins (2009)
Mister by Alex Kurtagić (2009)
The selection of Ally Condie (2010)
The determination of Veronica Roth (2011)
Submission (Soumission) by Michel Houellebecq (2015)Dystopia examples (film)
Chronological overview of literary dystopias
Metropolis of Thea of Harbou and Fritz Lang (1927)
Planet of the Apes by Franklin J. Schaffner (1968)
The Million Play by Tom Toelle (1970)
Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick (1971)
THX 1138 by George Lucas (1971)
Year 2022 … who want to survive (Soylent Green) by Richard Fleischer (1973)
Escape to the 23rd Century by Michael Anderson (1976)
The Rattlesnake by John Carpenter (1981)
Blade Runner by Ridley Scott (1982)
Brazil by Terry Gilliam (1985)
Running Man by Paul Michael Glaser (1987)
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo (1988)
Ghost in the Shell by Mamoru Oshii (1995)
12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam (1995)
Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno (1995)
Gattaca by Andrew Niccol (1997)
Dark City by Alex Proyas (1998)
Matrix by Andy and Lana Wachowski (1999)
Battle Royale by Kinji Fukasaku (2000)
Equilibrium by Kurt Wimmer (2002)
Minority Report by Steven Spielberg (2002)
The Island (2005) by Michael Bay (2005)
Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón, Tim Sexton and David Arata (2006)
V as Vendetta (V for Vendetta) by James McTeigue (2006)
Idiocracy by Mike Judge (2006)
District 9 by Neill Blomkamp (2009)
The Walking Dead by Frank Darabont (2010)
In Time – Your time runs out from Andrew Niccol (2011)
Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer, Andrew Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (2012)
The Hunger Games by Panary – The Hunger Games by Gary Ross (2012)
Oblivion by Joseph Kosinski (2013)
Elysium by Neill Blomkamp (2013)
The Tribute of Panem – Catching Fire by Francis Lawrence (2013)
The Leftovers by Damon Lindelof (2014)
The Tribute of Panem – Mockingjay Part 1 by Francis Lawrence (2014)
Short overview: The most important overview
Dystopia, also called anti-utopia and matopia, is the counterpart of positive utopia (cf. eutopia). Dystopia is a narrative which shows a very negative tug of the future humanity. This future is characterized by a society that has developed into a negative and often characterized by totalitarian systems, progress and abolition of individual liberties.
Dystopias can be made increasingly from the second half of the 19th century onwards and since then they have appeared in numerous literature and film formats. Previously there were also critical voices, which were directed against progress or science in general, but there were no literary works that deliberately drew a negative picture of the future society. The reason is the Fin de Siècle
There are quite different characteristics, which are repeated in dystopian literature (see overview above). However, important topics are often found in literature and film. These include: population explosion, enormous scientific progress, enslavement of humanity or the suppression of certain strata, destruction or restriction of man ‘s freedom, ongoing threat / state of war, and sometimes also a post – apocalyptic scenario human civilization built by it.