Task Forces



Eutopias, Kakotopias, Empires and Belly Buttons By Prince Jose Cosmelli, GM & Head of State, SOSJJ, KMFAP


When Sir Thomas More (later canonized by the Catholic Church) wrote his famous book, published in 1516 and named “ De Optimo Reipublicae Statu Deque Nova Insula Utopia “ ( On the Best State of a Republic and on the New Island of Utopia ), commonly known as

Utopia, he could not imagine the enormous success that his book would have in the generations to come.

Part of the success of the book resides in its second part where he describes an imagined island called Utopia, a place far in the Ocean in which everything - from the Government to the People and the Environment - where perfect, a Sovereign State under a wise and benevolent ruler. Sir Thomas More named this island based on a Greek word composed of “ ou “ ( reads u ) which means ‘not’ and “ tópos “ which means ‘place’, therefore Utopia was a no -place, or, better saying, was not a place that existed or could exist, but an Ideal, a blueprint of the perfect State and of the perfect community.

However the word Utopia was a pun based on the almost identical and homophonic Greek word Eutopia, which means a Good or Happy Place ( composed by “ eu ” which means ‘good ‘ or ‘ happy ‘ and “ tópos “ which, as we have seen, means ‘place’ ), so, by playing with the words, the author implies the vital question: can a perfect World ever be realized ?

The big difference between Utopia and Eutopia is that the Utopia - the total perfection -, is a no-place impossible to attain, while the good place called Eutopia, where the people are happy, is possible and exists, and in fact in our days we have ratings for the best countries to live, and for the countries where its people are happier, but the reality is that although some Utopian idealists have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic model for a working nation, and in spite of the promises made by politicians during electoral campaigns, the reality is that our World is more of a Dystopia ( a word which means a bad place, composed by the prefix “dys“ that means ‘bad ’ and “tópos“ ), and even – unfortunately -, in many places, our World correspond more to the idea of a “Kakotopia“ (from the Greek “kakós“, which means ‘vile’ and ‘unhappy’ and by “ tópos “).

Kakotopia is a word first used by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) in his book about the Parliamentary Reform, to describe a most negative state of a Society where both Chaos and Disintegration reigns, and where citizens live without moral or ethics in a dehumanized condition, amidst a degraded environment as a result of the disrespect for Nature, dominated by a totalitarian power and seeing the outside World as a menace of biblical Escathological (see Note at the end) dimension.

As Dystopias and Kakotopias exist in the present - as they did in the past -, in face of such a negative and evil perspective, most of the people have long since lost faith in utopias of all kinds, colours, shades and shapes and in a promisingly good and happy future where human beings could achieve total happiness in some future perfect State. Therefore, having lost Faith in what we could call a Metaeutopia (Future Happiness) and due to the crescent delusion caused by Terrorism, Fundamentalism, Intolerance of all kinds, Misery, Wars, Violence, Oppression, Corruption, Unemployment, Child Abuse, Social and Economic inequalities, etc., many are re-emerging today with their vision focused not on the Future but on the Past, not on a Future-to-be-created, but turning back to the past of their nations, not in an Apocatastasical way of restoration to their original or primordial condition, but in a true Retrotopia.

The emergence of Retrotopia, where “retro “derives from the Latin prefx “retro“, meaning ‘backwards’ or ‘in past times’ is, we quote: “interwoven with the deepening gulf between power, money and politics that is a defining feature of our contemporary liquid-modern world—the gulf between the ability to get things done and the capability of deciding what things need to be done, a capability once vested with the territorially sovereign state.

This deepening gulf has rendered nation-states unable to deliver on their promises, giving rise to a widespread disenchantment with the idea that the future will improve the human condition and mistrust in the ability of nation-states to make this happen. True to the utopian spirit, Retrotopia derives its stimulus from the urge to rectify the failings of the present human condition—though now by resurrecting the failed and forgotten potentials of the past. Imagined aspects of the past, genuine or putative, serve as the main landmarks today in drawing the road map to a better World. Having lost all faith in the idea of building an alternative society of the future, many turns instead to the grand ideas of the past, buried but not yet dead. Such is Retrotopia, the contours of which are examined by Zygmunt Bauman in this sharp dissection of our contemporary romance with the past.” (Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leeds).

This Retrotopia, due to twisted historical hermeneutics where the interpretation and understanding of the past social events, is only focused on the glories, victories and Empires of the past, gave origin to the modern nationalisms, political extremisms and fundamentalisms of all kinds.


The glory of the old and lost empires become ideology and the return to this glory become objectives to be achieved in the future, but, if we see clearly and neutrally, the fact is that since the first Mesopotamian empires until today, empires have never ceased to exist, they only have evolved and taken different forms and shapes.

At this point is important to make clear that in this Paper we do not express any preconceptions or prejudices - whether positive or negative - about the concept of Empires or Imperialisms, having adopted only a definition of Empire based on the Dictionaries as a “group of states, or nations ruled over by a single leader, an oligarchy, or a sovereign State “ being a Nation defined as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory “.

Tom Naim and Paul James define Empires as forms or processes of civil polities that "extend relations of power across territorial spaces over which they have no prior or given legal sovereignty, and where, in one or more of the domains of economics, politics, and culture, they gain some measure of extensive hegemony over those spaces for the purpose of extracting or accruing value"

A l l Empires are typically formed by diverse ethnic, national, cultural, economic and religious components. Empires were glorious and influential in their own ways and had a very profound impact on the Culture, the Economy, the Religion, the Social Organization and the Progress of both dominant and dominated nations.

Empires were responsible for the Globalization since they were multi-ethnic or multinational states with political and/or military dominion of populations who were culturally and ethnically distinct from the imperial (or the ruling) ethnic group and its Culture and this is the main difference between an Empire and a Federation, which is an extensive State, geographically diverse but voluntarily composed of autonomous states, Nations or Peoples.

An empire is a large polity which rules, controls or has a strong influence over territories and nations outside of its original borders, therefore we can identify Five main types of Empires: The Empires of Territorial Continuity, the Colonial Overseas Empires, the Empires of Influence, the Cultural Empires and the Semantic Empires

- Empires of Territorial Continuity – The first Empires have been the result of one State invading and conquering its neighbor countries, by this increasing its territorial borders and engulfing the respective populations. This expansion over the terrain, extending directly outwards from the original frontier in a centrifugal movement, required a strong military power and a well-organized central administration. Some of the most important and well-known Empires were:

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (the first Persian Empire) founded by Cyrus the Great, the King of Kings (Shahanshah), around 550 B.C., which had a lasting legacy on the subsequent development of world civilizations and on the future empires, since it was the first true empire that established the standard of what an Empire should be;

The Roman Empire, the paradigm of all Empires, left an important heritage in the many fields like Culture, Politics, Legislation, Public Works, Architecture, Philosophy, Urban Planning, and even in Religion etc.;

The Arab Empire, also known as the Caliphate, founded by the Muslim Prophet Muhammad that encompassed most of Arabia by the time of his death in 632 A.D.;

The Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan in 1206 A.D., which defeated enemies much more powerful and populous than it, and become the world’s largest contiguous land empire;

The Empire of Charlemagne, the Chinese Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon’s Empire, etc.

Colonial Overseas Empires - A Colonial Empire is a collective of territories called colonies, located overseas and less developed in relation to the colonizer State. It is an Empire composed of territories with no territorial continuity.

Colonial empires started with the navigations of the then most advanced European maritime powers, Portugal followed by Spain, during the 15th century, having as initial impulse the trade activity and driven by the new ideas and the new economy that emerged from the Renaissance period.

European imperialism grew when other naval powers like Great Britain, Holland and France followed the examples of Portugal and Spain, and those empires fall after the World War II.

Empires of Influence – In the field of International Relations, this is also called “ Sphere of Influence “ or a “ Zone of influence “ and consists of a less developed State or a Region (normally Dystopias and Kakotopias) accommodate to the political, economic, commercial, military interests of powers outside its borders. This is a form of soft power (no military coercion occurs) and, in the more extreme cases, a country within the "sphere of influence" of another, may become a subsidiary of that State and serve in effect as a satellite state. The spheres of influence, a system by which powerful nations intervene effectively in the affairs of others, continues to the present.

The British Empire is a good example of this concept, when, with the end of the World War II the colonial Empires started to dissolve and from their Colonial Empire the British, intelligently, changed from a ruling Empire to an Empire of Influence by creating of the British Commonwealth, a community of interests and influence.

We cannot exclude from this concept the proselytizing churches and religions which ‘de facto’ exert strong influence (and not only moral influence…) both on the people and on the Governments of many countries. Some expanding religions are clearly, by their practice, Empires of Influence.

Cultural Empires – Since the ancient times we can remark the existence of cultural trends that go far beyond nations or ethnic groups and cover very vast regions and different populations. These is the case of, for instance, the Megalithic Culture that stretched from French Britain to Gibraltar, or the Bell shaped ( bell Beaker ) vases Culture, covering the area from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, the Rhone Culture that emerged from the present territory of Switzerland and arrived at the Mediterranean, characterized by its beautiful bronze artefacts.

Other cultural empires persisted and lasted much longer than their underlying territorial or colonial empires, such as the Greek-Latin Culture, the Judeo-Christian Culture, the Muslim Culture, the Portuguese Culture and the Spanish Culture covering the territories of its ex-colonies. Cultural empires are probably the most positive result of the territorial empires of the past and are integrant part of Globalization.

Semantic Empires - Sometimes, an Empire is nothing but a semantic construction that happens when a ruler (normally a dictator) assumes the title of "Emperor" and by this, the ruler's nation becomes an "Empire", although not having any additional territory, any hegemony or influence over others.

Examples of Semantic Empires are the Central African Empire of Bokassa, or the Korean Empire proclaimed in 1897 when Korea was in risk being annexed by the Empire of Japan (the last to use the name officially). Besides these, other Semantic Empires of the 20th century included the Empires of Ethiopia and of Vietnam, the Manchukuo and the German Empires.

However there is a big difference between the several empires, and it resides in their duration : There were Empires of Short Duration, based on wars and conquests such as the Empires of Alexander the Great, Hitler, Napoleon, Dario I and Genghis Khan, and other Empires of very long duration such as the Egyptian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, that lasted 1.100 years, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the British Empires that lasted about 400 years, these only to mention a few.

The Long Duration Empires owe their longevity to the fact that they had cement to unite the Empire, a cement made of a strong and efficient Central Administration, of a common Economy (sometimes even using the same currency), of Culture, Language, Defense against common enemies, of Tolerance (even respect) for diversity, and of the same Legislation (a heritage from King Hammurabi and the Assyrians). This cement had a deep impact because it started Globalization, mixed populations, made possible the meeting and interaction among different cultures and had a strong political and social influence in evolution and development since old times.

It is known that there were no uniform empires (as there were no uniform societies), as it is known that Empires have never been Eutopias and frequently its fragmentation resulted for the colonized in disastrous Kakotopias, however, empires had Glory, Fame and Wealth, and these are the reasons why many political parties used Retrotopia to build nationalisms.


In present times the new empires are called Superpowers (we quote: “Superpower“ is a term used to describe a State with a dominant position, which is characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of economic, military, technological and cultural strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence“) and due to the difficulty in conquering new territories and of being Empires of Territorial Continuity, these superpowers became Empires of Influence, in which each superpower tries to attract other countries (most of them Dystopias or Kakotopias) to their sphere of influence, by using several means as arguments, from the diplomatic support and the support given to local political leaders, the financial loans or import of goods and raw materials, to selling armament, etc..

Of course, we also see exceptions in some superpowers or strong countries that, instead of having a geo-strategic policy for their empires, prefer to turn their attention to their belly buttons, and close on themselves, in a strange exercise of Retrotopia that will only contribute for their disgrace….

However, all the means and arguments used by most of the superpowers to attract other countries to their sphere are based in short-term interests, which can vary in accordance with the global conjuncture and the “status quo” of the moment.

As we have seen before, arguments like interests are not a good cement to establish durable relations, nor to build durable empires, even if they are only empires of influence in the region, this because with this type of arguments, only very few among the local populations receive some benefice and the rest of the people sees no tangible benefice at all.

To build durable Empires of Influence the superpowers need to have a good and durable cement and in our time there is only one: Cooperation.

Cooperation shall not and must not replace the economic or the political interests, but to reinforce them.

Cooperation can embrace and cover several areas much needed by the populations of the Dystopias and of the Kakotopias, such as Culture, Health, Education, low Technology Transfer that can elevate the technological standards of those countries, even simple things as pure water or a better Environment.

By Cooperation we mean the real and effective Cooperation and not the profitable businesses conducted and carried out by many NGO’s that prevent 75 or 80 percent of donations to arrive at the needy.

One of the Masters in using honestly and correctly the mechanism of Cooperation is The Federation of Autonomous Priories of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, (KMFAP), as the direct and legal descendent of the old Order of St John of Jerusalem, also known as the Hospitaller, or the Knights of Malta, which is a non-territorial Sovereign State - and as such recognized by many States with whom it maintains regular Diplomatic Relations at Ambassadorial level, in accordance with the Vienna Convention of 1961 on Diplomatic Relations.

Of course KMFAP cannot be considered as a Superpower or an Empire, due to its size, but it is for sure a State of Influence, politically and economically independent, serving no third party’s interests, truly Sovereign in its decisions, not depending on monies given by other countries, tolerant and updated to the reality of the 21st Century.

KMFAP’s influence is used to establish bridges between nations and peoples, bridges between interests and international pressures, and its Humanitarian activity is the real Cement of its international relations, working for the benefice of the populations.


NOTE: Eschatology is a part of Theology concerned with the final events of History or the ultimate destiny of Humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "End of the World" or "End of Times".




-  Thomas More – Utopia, 1516

  - Terry Eagleton - Utopias, past and present: why Thomas More remains astonishingly radical – The Guardian, Oct. 2015

  - Humberto Abdo - 3 reflexões para entender o pensamento de Zygmunt Bauman - Revista Galileu – 19/12/2016

-  Cult Magazine n°138. Interview with Zygmunt Bauman by Dennis de Oliveira. 2009

  - Zygmunt Bauman – Retrotopia, Translation by Renato Aguiar. Jorge Zahar Editorn ISBN 9788537817124 -2017 and Der Spiegel (3-9-2016):

-  John Baylis, Sir Steve M. Smith and Patricia Owens

  - The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations7th Edition - Oxford University Press

-  Wikipedia - Several entries and articles

-  Cambridge Dictionary

-  The Great Empires - Revista Super Interessante, May 2016

-  Anselmo Borges – Utopias, Distopia e Retrotopia – Diário Noticias Out 2016

-  Encyclopaedia Britannica – Several Entries

  -  Rethinking Kakotopia - University of Johannesburg Kingsway Campus, Auckland Park Sep. 6 / 2017 – Oct.4 /2017

- Oxford Reference – Constitutive Theory and other entries

  - Hakhilesh Pillalamarri - The Five most powerful empires in History – The National Interest website – Foreign Policy Experts Roundtable, Feb. 2015


*This article was also published in Russian language in the Russian Journal of Political Science.