Cicero's De republica (54–52 B.C.) is largely indebted to Plato, not only to the Republic but also to several other Platonic dialogues. Cicero discusses the attributes of various types of government — monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and dictatorship — but without committing himself to a preference. One point, however, is clear. His concept of an ideal state is one based on reason and justice, where those who possess natural superiority rule over the inferiors.
Most scholars see it as a comment on or criticism of 16th-century Catholicism, for the evils of More's day are laid out in Book I and in many ways apparently solved in Book II. Indeed, Utopia has many of the characteristics of satire, and there are many jokes and satirical asides such as how honest people are in Europe, but these are usually contrasted with the simple, uncomplicated society of the Utopians.
No two communities were identical in purpose and operation, but certain aspects of the utopian norm appear frequently. Many of them followed the plan of community of property, equality in sharing labor, community rearing of children, simplicity and uniformity of dress, avoidance of luxury, rigid codes of behavior, pacifism, and a government by selected elders. All of this is obviously reminiscent of More's island commonwealth.
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.
Bellamy's optimism for the future of mankind is further revealed in his confidence that human ingenuity will continue to contribute inventions for comfort and convenience of mankind. Specifically, he predicts that there will be canopied sidewalks for the protection of pedestrians, and he describes piped-in home entertainment obtained by merely pressing buttons and turning knobs for sermons, lectures, or a wide selection of musical programs. He does not develop this aspect of modern living at length, his preoccupation being in the fields of economics and sociology; but he is clearly not in the camp of those later writers who fear the further advances of technology.
A new form of language called "newspeak" is being developed to facilitate the process of thought control, and there is a movement called "doublethink" whereby the most absurd ambiguities are propounded in all seriousness. The mottoes of the Party are: "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery," and "Ignorance is Strength." The Ministry of Truth deals mainly with propaganda, the Ministry of Peace manages military operations, the Ministry of Love is concerned with matters of law and order, and the Ministry of Plenty regulates the economy.
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.
beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. More had several children by his first wife. His daughter Margaret was considered to be the smartest woman in England being proficient in Latin, Greek and the classics. All of his children loved him. More indulged in scatological jokes; had countless pets and viewed life as a grand drama with him as an actor upon the stage of affairs.
The features of Erewhonian society that surprise the author are those that differ from the England that he knew. According to the early impressions of the travelers, the people all appear to be exceptionally healthy, exceedingly handsome, and altogether contented. Their life style is characterized by simplicity and gracious manners, best described as Arcadian. Gradually, however, oddities, or what appear to be oddities to the visitor, begin to surface. Duplicity pervades every aspect of thought and action. The natives habitually profess agreement to a proposition although they do not believe in it, and their friends are perfectly aware that they do not mean what they say. There are two separate banking systems in operation and two sets of religions. The people give lip service to what they call the Musical Banks, but they transact all serious business with the currency of the other chain of banks. Similarly they recognize a group of deities representing the personification of human qualities — justice, hope, love, fear — and erect statues to them; but their pragmatic morality is evidently dictated by a goddess — Ydgrun (Grundy). More and more they reveal themselves to the traveler as victims of self-deception and inverted logic. Their universities are called Colleges of Unreason, and the principal course of study is Hypothetics.
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In time is a utopian movie directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. In the mid 22nd-century, people turn off the aging gene at their 25th birthday. To avoid overpopulation, when people stop aging, their clock begins to count down from 1 year. When their clock reaches 0, that person dies. However, this remaining time can be transferred from person to person. Classes of people form, with "time rich" who has centuries on their clock, to individuals who are trying to make ends meet, by just having a next day to live.
There is, of course, nothing new in all of this program, nothing fantastic such as Huxley's "Hatchery and Conditioning Centre." The reader, while he cringes at the horror, keeps repeating to himself, "It can't happen here." Nevertheless, Orwell compels us to recognize not only Nazi devices but also certain telltale symptoms in our own social and political practices that cannot help but undermine our complacency.
Excellent read and great translation for the modern reader. Retranslated from the original Latin, with the Greek translated further into English (i.e. River Nowater), the satire and biting commentary of More comes alive for the modern reader who likely lacks the Greek or Latin language skills of the educated classs of the 16th Century. This translation makes Utopia eminently readable. This edition also includes an extensive commentary and glossary for the reader new to the work.
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On becoming Lord Chancellor after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey he was zealous in the persecution and burning of reformers and Protestant. More opposed the English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale. He could be cruel and was a bitter enemy of anyone who opposed the Church. Like most people of the age he was superstitious believing firmly in ghosts, omens in dreams and the literal interpretation of the Bible. More called for reform in the existing church but believed everyone should obey the Pope in Rome as a father is obeyed in the well ordered home. He would not brook breaking away from Roman Catholicism.
The history of utopian literature from the mid-seventeenth century to the present cannot be treated in detail here, since there are more than 50 works that ought to be included in such a study. A brief survey will have to suffice for present purposes. A few of the better known and more influential works will be analyzed briefly and classified according to the main directions of development of the theme.
A body of writings commonly associated with the utopian tradition even though the works seem to be in direct contradiction are variously referred to as anti-utopian or distopian. This group includes some distinguished books, the most famous being Samuel Butler's Erewhon, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and George Orwell's 1984. If it is remembered that the primary motivation for all utopian writing is a desire to attack the ills of existing society and to point directions for the amelioration of human society, we will recognize that these anti-utopian documents are not entirely remote from the traditional utopias. Indeed, the anti-utopian works purport to offer utopian solutions to social, economic, and political problems at the outset, but sooner or later — usually sooner — the reader discovers that the author's real purpose is satirical.
It is a fundamental disposition of humankind to concoct imaginary Utopias, although their names for such places may differ. The word utopia, which has become the familiar designation for such states, was More's creation. It is inevitable that people, recognizing the manifold stupidities, corruptions, and inequities current in their society, should attempt to devise a better system for people living together. Omar Khayyam voiced the attitude admirably in The Rubaiyat.
St. Augustine's famous De Civitate Dei (City of God, 413–26) is frequently cited as a source for Utopia. It was, of course, well known to More. He had delivered a series of lectures on the work, as has been mentioned. The basic plan of Augustine's book is different from the Republic, although Augustine was a devoted admirer of Plato. By the same token, More's work differs in basic concept from Augustine's, though inevitably echoes of Augustine are to be found in More.
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H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia. Wells was repeatedly drawn to utopias and dystopias, as is evident right from the beginning of his career and his first novel, The Time Machine (1895). The 1905 novel A Modern Utopia posits the existence of an alternate Earth, very much like our own world and populated with doubles of every human being on our own planet. The rule of law is maintained by the Samurai, a voluntary noble order.
Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is a prime example of the eighteenth-century vogue of primitivism which was spurred by Rousseau's thesis of the "noble savage" and which generated such novels as St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia and Chateaubriand's Atala. Diderot's book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer. The central portion of the story presents an imaginary dialogue between a French chaplain and a native of Tahiti (Orou) in which a comparison is made between the customs and institutions of Europe and those of Tahiti. The way of life of the islanders is eloquently defended, and that of the Europeans discredited. According to the Tahitian, man's natural instincts, which are equated with the laws of nature, are interpreted as justifying complete freedom in sexual relations. Their observance of community property is defended as minimizing personal conflicts and legal entanglements and promoting a general concern for the welfare of the community as a whole.