Why injustice exists? Because it is part of being human. This is the overall reflection of this story that takes us to a land where everything is perfect because there is no private property, and everyone is happy with what they have.
Utopia can either mean 'good place' or 'no place', and this double-meaning runs throughout the book.
The virtues and structure of Utopia are in great contrast to the England and Europe that More knew. More speaks of (of sorts): democracy; equality between men and women; communitarianism; liberal interventionism; universal education; euthanasia; religious tolerance, etc.
This is in stark contrast to More's world - run by Kings and religious fundamentalists.
Utopia is highly provocative and interesting, though not emotionally engaging at all.
If only socialism had developed like More described, rather than like Marx!...Continua
Utopia. I have not yet been there, but have read this book before. It deserved rereading. Thomas Moore wrote this satire in incredible times (1515/1516): the discovery of America was hot of the press and Luther was about to initiate protestant reformation.
Moore was not yet agreeing with himself (…) whether to publish the work. The story of Utopia (the perfect society if you will) is actually told by a traveler. He is the one who makes to the real daring statements, at the time. Most of these today have become reality. Some examples are: education for all children and in their local language (not Latin), reasonable labor hours (not 12 to 16 hours per day), a pension for the elderly.
Some other interesting statements from this book:
Heads of state are much more interested in conquering new land, instead of well governing what they already have (like Hadrianus tried to ).
Why should the state take a life, when only money is stolen? Surely money has a lower value than life itself? (a thief received capital punishment in those days)
Maybe France is already too big to be decently ruled by one person alone?
In the bible (then only in Latin) there is much more Christianity to be found then the current morals in the country. Is there a moral to keep that silent?
Today’s wealthy states are just a conspiracy of the rich, mixing general interests with their own personal interests.
(Like Darwin) he observes have soldiers and thieves have a lot in common (soldiers are never afraid to steal).
The more innocent statements are e.g. on town planning: how cities should be build and planned (houses in straight lines, along a wide street, with gardens, very utopic at the time). Mind you, no private property in Utopia. If all wealth is measured in money, there is no room for law and prosperity. No wonder socialist thinkers have admired Moore, for his longnow thinking then.
Making these kind of statements, even in a satire, was very dangerous at the times. I suspect it contributed somehow to Moore’s death. I could have read the Project Gutenberg version, but my Latin is rather rusty. I read the work of Marie H van der Zeyde, Athenauem, 2002 (in Dutch).
BTW there is a great map of Utopia as well!...Continua
We're reading this book for [info]bibliogoth this month. Having read so many Victorian books about a Utopia it was quite interesting to go back and read the original version. I know it was a great inspiration for both Wells and Morris, though having now read the original I think I'd much prefer to live in Morris' Utopia than More's.
I've studied quite a lot of Early Tudor history and I think this helped me a great deal when reading this book as there were so many references to things that were important during the time, that it seemed like there was a lot I would have missed, or not understood the significance of (for example the lengthy discourse about Sheep!) had I not had a good background. Saying that I did feel like I had been let down by not knowing as much about Ancient Greece and Rome and will be glad to get the opinions of those who know more to see just how much he was influenced by those writers, as I suspect, knowing how fond More was of his Greek, that it was quite a lot!!!
For the most part I was struck by how ghastly the "utopian" society was. A lot of this was because of the time it was written which was very Christian, sexist and racist. It made me giggle that the perfectly egalitarian society was actually based on slave labour, and all the people were able to live this life because of their slaves, and not because they'd actually gotten a perfect communist society. The part I liked the most was at the end when he was talking about how people who didn't contribute, like the gentry and bankers should not be given wealth while those who laboured hard couldn't afford to feed their children. I felt like this was the part I could agree with most. However, the actual way the country was run kinda terrified me.
It was interesting to see so many parts that reminded me of China. How the Utopians had the Confucian relationships, "were the oldest man of every family, as has been already said, is its governor; wives serve their husbands, and children their parents, and always the younger serves the elder". Also the communal dining reminded me so much of the Great Leap that I also found it amusing.
In addition to the slavery I thought it was quite scary to see who Imperialism was considered perfectly justified within Utopia.
"But if the natives refuse to conform themselves to their laws they drive
them out of those bounds which they mark out for themselves, and use
force if they resist, for they account it a very just cause of war for a
nation to hinder others from possessing a part of that soil of which they
make no use, but which is suffered to lie idle and uncultivated, since
every man has, by the law of nature, a right to such a waste portion of
the earth as is necessary for his subsistence"
So it was considered perfectly just to war on people whose land you had taken if they had a problem with you taking it!!!
Quite an interesting read, even if there wasn't much I agreed with. I disliked how men were so dominant over the women, husbands being able to punish their wives etc! But I feel like it added to my cultural understanding, and I am glad to have finally gotten around to reading it....Continua
Notwithstanding some og More's positions and actions towards Protestants (actions most unfortunately complitely accepted and endorsed by the whole of the Catholic Church) "Utopia" is a book that should have a place in everyone's bookcases and on everyone's nightstands....Continua