Utopians do not fight their own wars if they can avoid it. Killing, although morally necessary, is morally degrading, so they hire mercenaries to defend Utopia. They do, however, train for war - men and women both - "so that they will not be incapable of fighting when circumstances require it". (105) They go to war reluctantly, and "do so only to defend their own territory, or to drive an invading enemy from the territory of their friends, or else, out of compassion and humanity, they use their forces to liberate a[n] oppressed people from tyranny and servitude." (105) Upon declaring war, they immediately offer enormous rewards for the assassination or capture of the enemy prince and others "responsible for plotting against the Utopians." (108)
Erewhon is a remote kingdom not on any map, which the narrator claims to have discovered in his travels. Much of the landscape resembles a region of New Zealand where Butler had lived for a few years. The residents of Erewhon are without contact with any other nation and live according to their own eccentric pattern of civilization. In many respects their life resembles that of contemporary Western civilization rather than Plato's or More's plan of society. They are governed by a monarchy, and have lawyers, judges, and prisons. They have money, banks, rich citizens, and poor.
The first discussions with Raphael allow him to discuss some of the modern ills affecting Europe such as the tendency of kings to start wars and the subsequent loss of money on fruitless endeavours. He also criticises the use of execution to punish theft, saying thieves might as well murder whom they rob, to remove witnesses, if the punishment is going to be the same. He lays most of the problems of theft on the practice of enclosure—the enclosing of common land—and the subsequent poverty and starvation of people who are denied access to land because of sheep farming.
The influence of More and of Plato, as well, are evident at many points. The tale is told by a sea captain who has visited an island called Taprobane (possibly Sumatra). In that land there is community property and no use of money. There is an equitable sharing of labor, with the result that all work is finished in a four-hour day. There is also a community of women, with a scientific control of breeding, a feature which reverts to Plato's arrangement rather than More's adherence to the plan of the Christian family. Like More, Campanella dwells at length on the subjects of justice, war, and religion.
Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt to create an ideal society, and fictional societies portrayed in literature. It has spawned other concepts, most prominently dystopia. Many books that deal with "utopia" are actually putting out a plot or message of a "false utopia".
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.