Twilight of Utopias

Julian and Aldous Huxley in the Twentieth Century


  • R. S. Deese Boston University



utopia, dystopia, ecology, agnostic, UNESCO, Huxley


The biologist Julian Huxley and his younger brother, the novelist Aldous Huxley, each presented a distinct approach to utopian thought in the twentieth century. Julian Huxley sketched a vision of ideal polity that was nothing less than global, calling for the creation of a uni?ed world culture, a new religion predicated on the methods and discoveries of evolutionary biology, and, ultimately, the emergence of a global government. Aldous Huxley’s vision of utopia was deliberately local, based on his view that the machinations of large states, however well intentioned, were a threat to human liberty. Island, Aldous Huxley’s utopian novel of 1962, depicts a small cooperative society, employing low-impact technologies while draw¬ing its worldview from a combination of modern science and Mahayana Buddhism. The distinct visions of the Huxley brothers did share one common trait which remains resonant today. Each identi?ed ecological sustainability as the primary foundation for any plausible utopia.


Adorno, Theodor W. 1983. Prisms (Cambridge: MIT Press).

Adorno, Theodor W., and Max Horkheimer. 1997. Dialectic of Enlightenment (London: Verso).

Anker, Peder. 2001. Imperial Ecology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Ardagh, John. 1962. ‘The Brave New World of Julian Huxley’, The Observer (London) June 10: n.p.

Associated Press. 1952. ‘2 UN Units Scored by a Vatican Organ’, New York Times, June 22: 12.

Baker, Robert S., and James Sexton (eds.). 2002. Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays, Vol. V, 1939–1956 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee).

Bergson, Henri. 1911. Creative Evolution (New York: Henry Holt, 1911).

Berlin, Isaiah. 1992. The Crooked Timber of Humanity (New York: Vintage Books).

Borsodi, Ralph. 1933. This Ugly Civilization (New York and London: Harper & Brothers).

Bradshaw, David. 1994. The Hidden Huxley (London: Faber).

Clark, Ronald W. 1969. The Huxleys (New York: McGraw Hill).

Dawkins, Richard. 1996. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (New York: W.W. Norton).

Deese, R.S. 2010. ‘The New Ecology of Power: Julian and Aldous Huxley in the Cold War Era’, in John R. McNeill and Corrina R. Unger (eds.), Environmental Histories of the Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 279-300._ doi:10.1017/CBO9780511730382.011.

Devall, Bill, and George Sessions 1985. Deep Ecology (Layton, UT: Gibbs M. Smith, Inc.).

Dronamraju, Krishna R. 1995. Haldane’s Daedalus Revisited (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Dunaway, David King. 1991. Huxley in Hollywood (New York: Anchor).

Huxley, Aldous. 1921. Crome Yellow (New York: George H. Doran Co.).

———. 1923. Antic Hay (New York: George H. Doran).

———. 1932. Brave New World (London: Chatto & Windus).

———. 1933 [1968]. ‘Economists, Scientists, and Humanists’, in Mary Adams (ed.). Science in the Changing World (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press): 209-23.

———. 1939. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (London: Chatto & Windus).

———. 1946. Science, Liberty and Peace (New York: Harper & Brothers).

———. 1948. Ape and Essence (London: Chatto & Windus).

———. 1949. ‘The Double Crisis’, UNESCO Courier, Supplement, II: 6-9.

———. 1954. The Doors of Perception (London: Chatto & Windus).

———. 1956. Brave New World (radio broadcast), CBS Radio Workshop, 27 January and 3 February.

———. 1958 [1949]. ‘The Greatest Threat to Liberty’, UNESCO Courier XI, 10:4-5.

———. 1962. Island (New York: Harper & Row).

———. 1969. Letters (ed. Grover Smith; New York: Harper & Row).

———. 2002a. ‘Ozymandias, 1956’, in Baker and Sexton 2002: 301-11.

———. 2002b [1943]. ‘Variations on Goya’, in Baker and Sexton 2002: 418-427.

———. 2007 [1962]. Selected Letters (ed. James Sexton; Chicago: Ivan R. Dee).

Huxley, Laura Archera. 2006. Interview. Los Angeles, 2 July.

Huxley, Julian. 1912. The Individual in the Animal Kingdom (London: Cambridge University Press).

———. 1926. ‘Biology in Utopia’, in Essays in Popular Science (New York: A.A. Knopf): 64-69.

———. 1927. Religion without Revelation (New York: Harper & Brothers).

———. 1931a. What Dare I Think? (New York: Harper & Brothers).

———. 1931b. Africa View (New York: Harper & Brothers).

———. 1947. UNESCO: Its Purpose and Philosophy (New York: Public Affairs Press).

———. 1957. New Bottles for New Wine (New York: Harper & Brothers).

———. 1961a. Letter to Hastings Banda, October 5, 1961 Box 32, Folder 4. Julian Huxley Papers, Fondren Library. Rice University.

———. 1961b. The Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats in Central and East Africa (Paris: UNESCO).

———. 1963. Preface to UK edition of Silent Spring (London: Hamish Hamilton).

———. 1970. Memories, Volume I (New York: Harper & Row).

———. 1973. Memories, Volume II (London: Allen & Unwin).

———. 1991. ‘A Planetary Utopia’, The UNESCO Courier, XLIV: 2.

Huxley, Julian, with A.M. Carr-Saunders and A.C. Haddon. 1935. We Europeans: A Survey of ‘Racial’ Problems (London: Jonathan Cape).

Huxley, Julian, and H.G. Wells. 1944. Reshaping Man’s Heritage (London: George Allen & Unwin).

Huxley, Juliette. 1986. The Leaves of the Tulip Tree (Tops_eld, MA: Salem House Publishers).

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 2009 [1893]. Evolution and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press). doi:10.1017/CBO9780511703522.

Jacoby, Russell. 1999. The End of Utopia: Politics in the Age of Apathy (New York: Basic Books).

———. 2007. Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age (New York: Columbia University Press).

Kellaway, Kate. 2010. ‘How the Observer brought the WWF into being’, The Guardian. Sunday 7 November.

LaHaye, Tim. 2003. Mind Siege: The Battle for Truth (New York: Thomas Nelson).

Leopold, Aldo. 1966 [1949]. A Sand County Almanac (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Malthus, Thomas. 1999 [1798]. An Essay on the Principle of Population (New York: Prometheus Books).

McCormick, John. 1989. Reclaiming Paradise: The Global Environmental Movement (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

McNeill, John R. 2000. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century (New York: W.W. Norton).

Merchant, Carolyn. 1983. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scienti_c Revolution (New York: Harper & Row).

Mitman, Gregg. 1992. The State of Nature: Ecology, Community, and American Social Thought, 1900–1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Murray, Nicholas. 2002. Aldous Huxley: A Biography (New York: Little, Brown, & Co.).

Naess, Arne. 1956. Democracy, Ideology and Objectivity: Studies in the Semantics and Cognitive Analysis of Ideological Controversy (Oslo: Oslo University Press).

———. 2003. Ecology, Community and Lifestyle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Nicholson, E.M. 1970. The Environmental Revolution: A Guide for the New Masters of the World (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1998 [1888]. Twilight of Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Overy, Richard. 2009. The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain between the Wars (New York: Viking).

Sewell, James P. 1975. UNESCO and World Politics (Princeton and London: Princeton University Press).

Sluga, Glenda. 2010. ‘UNESCO and the (One) World of Julian Huxley’, Journal of World History 21.3: 393-418. doi:10.1353/jwh.2010.0016.

Wagar, W. Warren. 2004. H.G. Wells: Traversing Time (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press).

Walzer, Michael. 2009. ‘Reclaiming Political Utopianism’, The Utopian 5. December 14. Online:

Wells, H.G. 1914. The World Set Free (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.).

———. 1923. Men Like Gods (London: Cassell & Co.).

Welter, Volker M. 2002. Biopolis: Patrick Geddes and the City of Life (Cambridge: MIT Press).



How to Cite

Deese, R. S. (2011). Twilight of Utopias: Julian and Aldous Huxley in the Twentieth Century. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 5(2), 210–240.