Radical changes have transformed England both in appearance and in its social patterns. The new society is structured according to the pattern of ideal communism: no money, no private property, perfect equality for every citizen. Labor is shared by every member of the community. These are all familiar attributes of utopian societies. One of the distinctive features of Morris's plan is that labor is regarded as a pleasure rather than a necessary chore, the reason being that everyone works at a task that he can do best and consequently takes pride in the product of his labor. This essentially Medieval attitude toward the achievement of the workman turns production into something of an art, whether the product is a dish, a meal, a doorknob, or a bridge. The revival of that ancient pattern of individual workmanship has been made possible by the elimination of all but the simplest machinery. Factories have all been destroyed, and the former pattern of urban industrial crowding and squalor has disappeared. Where London used to be there is a collection of scattered villages. The age is described as post-industrial.
The reader, following the narrator's shifting attitude from admiration to surprise and finally to contempt, is led to believe that the author is bent on demonstrating the vast inferiority of the Erewhonians to his fellow Englishmen; but it gradually becomes clear that he attributes to Englishmen much of the irrationality and the ingenious equivocations that make the Erewhonians look foolish. The difference is only one of degree. The technique is close to that of Swiftian satire. In some places it is confused and inconsistent, but in other passages it is both clever and devastating, worthy of the master.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. In this work of 1726, which was an immediate bestseller, Lemuel Gulliver actually visits four different fantasy worlds, but the one that’s especially interesting here is the world of the Houyhnhnms, horses endowed with reason and speech, and a world in which humans are yobbish Yahoos flinging their muck around. Gulliver interprets the Houyhnhnms’ society as a utopian world, though whether Swift is inviting us to agree, or to distance ourselves from Gulliver, remains a contentious point.
Dr. Derek Alderman is a cultural and historical geographer interested in public memory, popular culture and heritage tourism in the U.S. South. Much of his work focuses on the rights of African Americans to claim the power to commemorate the past and shape cultural landscapes as part of a broader goal of social and spatial justice. His work spans many aspects of the southern landscape, including Civil Rights memorials, slavery and plantation heritage tourism sites, NASCAR, Graceland and Memphis, Mayberry and film tourism, and the cultural geography of kudzu.
In George Orwell's 1984 (1949), the society of the year 1984 which Orwell projects for us is based on the assumption that a "limited" nuclear war of the 1950s had left civilization severely crippled and that government controls were seized by well-organized opportunists employing the familiar methods of a police state to maintain power. London, the scene of the novel's action, is the capital of Oceania, one of three superpowers. The other superpowers are called Eastasia and Eurasia. The city of London contains a few enormous government buildings and a small number of fine apartment buildings, but the vast majority of the buildings are eighteenth- or nineteenth-century houses in dilapidated condition which provide shelter for the common people. There are also a good many neglected bombed-out areas. Certainly this is not a picture of somebody's dream city.
The section of the book dealing with the outlawing of machinery has attracted special attention from students of utopian literature because of its possible bearing on the attitude of certain philosophers who viewed the industrial revolution with alarm and warned of the menace of the machine age. It can hardly be concluded that Butler meant to advocate the elimination of machinery, as some later utopists did, for he treats this attitude as one more example of the susceptibility of the natives to outlandish arguments. Nevertheless, he sets forth the arguments in such a fashion that the reader is obliged to reflect seriously on the issue and recognize in advancing technology some serious threats to human values.
The religious history of the period is a dramatic one. Christianity, which for more than a thousand years had been represented throughout all of Western Europe by one church, the Roman Catholic Church, experienced a tremendous upheaval during the 16th century. The first overt action of revolt came in 1517 when Luther defied the authority of Rome. That marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the consequences of which were that Europe was divided into numerous divergent sects and into warring camps. Actually, all of that turmoil occurred after More wrote his Utopia, but the causes of the Reformation were of long standing and had been a source of concern to conscientious Christians for at least two centuries. Among the principal evils alleged in the attacks against the church were arbitrary exercise of papal authority, greed of the clergy as revealed in the selling of pardons and of church offices, and the traffic in holy relics. Intelligent people were indignant over the propagation of superstitions to anesthetize the common people, and social critics were bitter over the enormous opulence of the church amid the poverty and squalor of the majority of Christians.
A serious dilemma presented itself as a result of this newfound devotion to the ancient sages because of the apparent conflict between pagan classicism and Christian doctrine. It became a matter of deepest concern for all Renaissance thinkers to find an accommodation of the two doctrines — the philosophy of Plato and the teachings of Christ. As a result of their dual allegiance, we get the term which describes the movement, "Christian humanism." The successful adaptation of double devotion is seldom better illustrated than in the works of Thomas More, especially in Utopia.