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The case for minor utopias

The 20th century showed how dangerous utopian ideas can be. Does that mean we should follow John Gray and abandon all political idealism? Or is a more modest strain of visionary thinking—with human rights at its foundation—still possible?

By Anthony Dworkin   July 2007

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In June 2002, President Bush delivered a speech to the US Military Academy at West Point that marked the beginning of the road to war with Iraq. The speech is remembered for Bush’s unveiling of his doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence, but alongside this principle Bush also gave a statement of America’s guiding values, designed to prove that US power need not be feared. “America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish,” Bush told his audience. “We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves—safety from violence, the…

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