Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy, the most successful and influential American author writing in the utopian vein, presents a vision of a glorious future society. Julian West, a young, aristocratic Bostonian, falls asleep under a hypnotic trance in 1887, but through a remarkable set of circumstances, is awakened in the year 2000. His host family in this new age introduces him to their amazing society, explaining their institutions and the rationale for their system.
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.
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.
Utopians do not like to engage in war. If they feel countries friendly to them have been wronged, they will send military aid, but they try to capture, rather than kill, enemies. They are upset if they achieve victory through bloodshed. The main purpose of war is to achieve that which, if they had achieved already, they would not have gone to war over.
A Traveler from Altruria (1894) by William Dean Howells is a utopian novel that describes the differences between the late 19th century US and fictional island of Altruria. During the novel, visitor from Altruria compares the lifestyle of those two countries, discovering that US is still lagging in the political, economic, cultural, or moral aspects of life. This critique of capitalism and its consequences was greatly influenced by the previous utopian works - The City of the Sun, New Atlantis, Looking Backward and News from Nowhere.
The planning of their extensive program of amusements has two main purposes. First, it is intended to stimulate the economy. The games and feelies all require expensive equipment; that means more factories and also more opportunities for people to distribute their pay checks. Second, the government is concerned to keep everybody busy during waking hours to leave them no odd moments for thinking.
One of the most eccentric features of Erewhonian life is the interpretation of crime and punishment. Illness is treated as a crime. Sentences of varying degrees of severity are pronounced according to the nature and seriousness of the disease. There are no physicians in the country. Those actions which Europeans consider criminal — theft, fraud, embezzlement — are regarded as weaknesses of character deserving sympathy and help, help which is provided through the ministrations of "straighteners."
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Equality for all mankind is not a realistic goal in Wells's view. That, he believes, would mean a loss of individuality, and individuality is an inherent requirement of human nature. Similarly, competition is necessary to a thriving society. Taking what he considers a practical position, he sees the new society as divided into four classes of persons which he calls poietic, kinetic, dull, and base. There is a leader caste, called Samurai, which is drawn primarily from the poietic group, though some from the kinetic class may qualify. Persons who volunteer for Samurai membership must meet stringent requirements, both physical and mental; and they must pledge to conform to the rules of the caste, which forbid eating meat, smoking, drinking, gambling, and participation in public sports or entertainments. The Samurai furnish the World State with its administrators, legislators, lawyers, doctors, and other leaders. Furthermore, they are the only voters in the commonwealth. The male members of the Samurai are encouraged to marry women of comparable qualifications, and they are encouraged to produce children with the aim of improving the quality of the population. The lower classes of citizens, the dull witted, the criminals, and the deformed are exiled from society and prevented from childbearing.
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