Utopian ideals often place emphasis on egalitarian principles of equality in economics, government and justice, though by no means exclusively, with the method and structure of proposed implementation varying based on ideology. According to Lyman Tower Sargent "there are socialist, capitalist, monarchical, democratic, anarchist, ecological, feminist, patriarchal, egalitarian, hierarchical, racist, left-wing, right-wing, reformist, Naturists/Nude Christians, free love, nuclear family, extended family, gay, lesbian, and many more utopias".
The word comes from Greek: οὐ ("not") and τόπος ("place") and means "no-place", and strictly describes any non-existent society 'described in considerable detail'. However, in standard usage, the word's meaning has narrowed and now usually describes a non-existent society that is intended to be viewed as considerably better than contemporary society. Eutopia, derived from Greek εὖ ("good" or "well") and τόπος ("place"), means "good place", and is strictly speaking the correct term to describe a positive utopia. In English, eutopia and utopia are homophonous, which may have given rise to the change in meaning.
Chronologically, the first recorded Utopian proposal is Plato's Republic. Part conversation, part fictional depiction, and part policy proposal, Republic would categorize citizens into a rigid class structure of "golden," "silver," "bronze" and "iron" socioeconomic classes. The golden citizens are trained in a rigorous 50-year-long educational program to be benign oligarchs, the "philosopher-kings." Plato stressed this structure many times in statements, and in his published works, such as the Republic. The wisdom of these rulers will supposedly eliminate poverty and deprivation through fairly distributed resources, though the details on how to do this are unclear. The educational program for the rulers is the central notion of the proposal. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors. These mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples.
During the 16th century, Thomas More's book Utopia proposed an ideal society of the same name. Readers, including Utopian socialists, have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated that Thomas More intended nothing of the sort. It is believed that More's Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent confusion between the Greek for "no place" and "good place": "utopia" is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning "no", and topos, meaning place. But the homophonic prefix eu-, meaning "good," also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly "good place" is really "no place."