Utopia in Texas

Glen Newey

‘A New Jerusalem cannot be built without an effective sewage system,’ Miriam Eliav-Feldon wrote in Realistic Utopias (1982). Indeed, the old Jerusalem relied in biblical times on a municipal waste-combustion site, Gehenna, identified by Hobbes as the real-world model for hell – where the fires would keep burning for as long as there were sinners for incineration. In William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890), which unearths utopia in 21st-century Hammersmith, the Houses of Parliament have been repurposed as a store for dung, while in Utopia itself, Thomas More specifies that Utopians use gold, which is abundant, for chamber pots. Shit, like nothing, happens anywhere, these utopian writers seem to say, but what matters is keeping it localised.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in