Contemporary urban utopia, a query trapped in the capitalist kaleidoscope: Is there an alternative?

Abeer Allahham (College of Design, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia)

Open House International

ISSN: 0168-2601

Publication date: 9 November 2020



This paper aims to assess the contemporary paradigm of urban utopia’s ability to fulfil its goals and to evaluate its attainability in the first place. Its main question is: are contemporary urban utopias achievable? If not, is there an alternative?


In light of modern urban utopia’s failure to achieve the “good city/society,” skepticism regarding utopianism has prevailed. However, many scholars stress the significance of utopianism, calling for its revival. Recently, a new paradigm of urban utopia has emerged; one that stems from present capitalist urban conditions and requires resolving its ills. It puts great emphasis on rights as a means to accomplish the good society and the just city. This research critically examines contemporary urban utopia to evaluate its ability to fulfill its goals. It poses questions such as: Does capitalism facilitates achieving its goals? Could rights as a means achieve the good city/society? If not, is there an alternative? To answer these questions, a substantially different perspective, that of Islam (as a societal system), is used as a utopic paradigm that could open up new paths for developing an alternative utopia.


It is found that despite the focus of both the Islamic societal system and mainstream contemporary urban utopia is on the concept of rights, vital dissensions exist between the two models regarding the concept of rights per se. Hence, the urban utopia of the good city and society is achievable, yet, it cannot transpire within the capitalist kaleidoscope.


Recently, discussions on what constitutes the future city and the alternative conceptions to the (Western) post-Enlightenment approaches generally offered in the English language planning literature have been on the rise. Therefore, this paper contributes to this debate through critically assessing Western contemporary urban utopias from a non-Western perspective, that of Islam. It introduces an alternative model based on Islamic urbanism that could open doors for deeper thinking regarding the alternative future/good city.



Allahham, A. (2020), "Contemporary urban utopia, a query trapped in the capitalist kaleidoscope: Is there an alternative?", Open House International, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 2-17.



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