One of the few Westerners to interview Osama bin Laden face-to-face, Peter Bergen is a print and television journalist, documentary producer, and the author of four books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers and three of which were named books of the year by the Washington Post. The books have been translated into 20 languages. He is the director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C.; a fellow at Fordham University's Center on National Security and CNN's national security analyst. He has held teaching positions at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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.
Francis Bacon's New Atlantis was probably written in 1624, but was not published until 1627, a year after the author's death. Like the work of his contemporaries, Campanella and Andreae, Bacon's book shows the influence of More in certain broad aspects. It purports to relate the discovery by an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean of an island where the natives have developed a society offering much to admire. The goal of the common good is sought through learning and justice. The principal attention of the account is focused on an elaborate academy of science. Bacon has incorporated in this society the basic ideas that he developed more elaborately in his longer philosophical and scholarly treatises; namely, that the advancement of human welfare can best be achieved through the systematic exploration of nature. His famous "scientific method" is founded on painstaking observation of natural phenomena and constructing, through inductive reasoning, a body of knowledge based on those observations. He urges experimentation to improve general knowledge and to develop inventions for human comfort and pleasure. The central institute in the capital of New Atlantis, called Solomon's House, is a huge academy which foreshadows the later creation of scientific laboratories and academies, such as the English Royal Society.
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Bacon left this work unfinished, and it is impossible to say how he planned to treat other aspects of life in New Atlantis. He did not discuss the social and governmental systems of the islanders; hence, we do not know what his attitude toward communism was. Marriage was held sacred. His Atlantians exhibited a love of finery in costumes and jewelry that sets them apart from the typical utopians.
The first lesson West learns is that all industry and all institutions are under the control of the national government, a system which, he is informed, has proved to be far more effective than the earlier one of free, private enterprise because of the elimination of wasteful competition. These enormous nationwide political and industrial institutions are structured on the plan of a military organization.
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.
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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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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)
Education is regarded as important and is continued to age 21 for all citizens. During their years of schooling, the pupils are introduced to many trades, professions, and arts in order to discover where their talents and interests lie, to enable them to choose the vocation that will bring them the greatest satisfaction in their adult years. At age 21, everyone enters the work force, "the industrial army," where he or she will serve up to the age of 45. Women and men are treated equally with respect to education, career in the work force, compensation. There is some distinction made regarding the occupations of men and women, and there are provisions for pregnancy.
Peter Ackroyd is the author of this 400 pages book making it much shorter than the definite biography of Sir Thomas by Richard Marius. Ackroyd portrays More warts and all giving a balanced view of the controversial man's life and times. More and his contemporaries are often quoted using the English of the period. This may prove annoying to many readers who prefer to read about him in a standard English format. This is a fine biography by one of England's best biographers.