Utopia has a quality of universality, as revealed by the fact that it has fascinated readers of five centuries, has influenced countless writers, and has invited imitation by scores of "Utopianists." Still, however, an examination of the period of which it was the product is necessary in order to view the work in depth. Remembering that Utopia was published in 1516, we need to recall what some of the major events associated with that era were, who More's great contemporaries were, and what were the principal ideas and drives that framed the cultural patterns of that brilliant era, the Renaissance.
Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy is the fictional utopian novel that first described the foundations of the socialist movement. In the book, main character becomes transported from the war filled nineteenth century to the peaceful utopian world of twenty-first century. After its release, it quickly became one of the biggest bestsellers of its time, and its influence shaped the works of many future philosophers, novelists, movements and utopian communities.
Thomas More was born in 1478. He succeeded Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of England, but came into conflict with the king, Henry VIII, by refusing to acknowledge him as sole head of the church. Charged with high treason, More steadfastly refused to takean oath impugning the pope's authority or upholding the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was beheaded in 1535. Paul Turner was educated at Winchester and King's College, Cambridge, and became an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford.
There is a kind of state religion in Utopia which includes high priests and public worship. "They invoke God by no other name than Mythras, a name they all apply to the one divine nature, whatever it may be. No prayers are devised which everyone cannot say without offending his own denomination." (126) "When the priest [...] comes out of the sacristy, everyone immediately prostrates himself on the ground out of reverence; on all sides the silence is so profound that the spectacle itself inspires a certain fear, as if in the presence of some divinity." (128) Priests are held in such high esteem that "even if they commit a crime they are not subject to a public tribunal but are left to God and their own consciences. [...] For it is unlikely that someone who is the cream of the crop and is elevated to a position of such dignity only because of his virtue should degenerate into corruption and vice." (124)
In the treatment of education, Campanella reveals himself as a seventeenth-century thinker, placing great emphasis on the study of the sciences, all of the sciences. He has a plan for spreading information on all branches of knowledge through pictures displayed throughout the city on walls and in corridors of public buildings — visual aids to education for persons of all ages. Their leaders believe that the advancement of scientific knowledge is the principal key to the betterment of the race. The report claims that those people have developed not only the telescope but also such modern inventions as power-propelled ships and flying machines.
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.
The story of the transformation from the nineteenth-century capitalist-industrial society is explained to the narrator by an old man who has made a study of the revolution that brought about the change. Before the outbreak of armed revolt, conditions for the common workers grew gradually more intolerable, and unions banded together in an organization similar to the AFL-CIO. The establishment ordered the machine-gunning of unarmed protesters, and the people finally learned how to fight back. Certain features of this history are reminiscent of the French Revolution, but others actually foreshadow developments and actions which occurred in the twentieth century, like the firing into the crowd of protesters in Petrograd by the Czarist guards.
Gattaca is a science fiction film directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It depicts the life in the futuristic dystopian Earth society, in which quality genetic makeup controls the destiny of every person. The main protagonist Vincent was born in an old-fashioned way. He is seen as genetically inferior and is doomed to a life of servitude. He tries to change his destiny by buying identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a potential swimming star whose career ended in a car accident.
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.
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is a science fiction thriller film, which was adapted from the novel "Colossus" by Dennis Feltham Jones. This classic SF movie describes the events that happened when the powerful supercomputer (which controlled military defense capabilities of both Soviet Union and the USA) became sentient and held the entire world as a hostage in its quest to secure world peace.
Utopia was the book that invented a new genre of fiction. It was the first book to use a made up world, a “Utopia” in its framing. This spawned books and stories that have continued to dominate the industry of storytelling to this day. Books like “The Hunger Games,” and “Divergent” can all trace their origins back to Thomas More's most famous work (Getty 321). More wrote this story to make a point about collectivism, whether in defense or as a criticism of. It could be argued, however, that Utopia's greatest impact could be in its world creation. More was the first to create his idealistic world, and the framework he created has stuck around for hundreds of years (Getty 321).
Fourierism exerted a wide influence in the United States in the 1830s and 1840s. The author of the doctrines was Charles Fourier, who wrote Traite' de I' Association Domestique Agricole (1822) and Le Nouveau Monde Industriel (1829). The leader of the movement in America was Albert Brisbane. An influential convert was Horace Greeley. Of the numerous communities, or phalanxes, the most famous was Brook Farm, which attracted the attention of Hawthorne, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and members of the Alcott family. An interesting plan for such a community was discussed quite seriously by Coleridge and Robert Southey to be called "Pantisocracy," but it did not materialize. A more practical group established a settlement at New Harmony, Indiana, under the leadership of a Scottish industrialist named Robert Owen. A second French utopist, Etienne Cabet, after writing a utopian novel entitled Le Voyage en Icarie (1840), established his own community, first in Texas, then later in Nauvoo, Illinois. Other successful communities deserving special mention are the Oneida (N.Y.) Community; the Shakers, with villages in eight states about 1840; the Amana Community, still thriving in Iowa; and the Hutterites, with communities from the Dakotas through western Canada. In modern Israel the communal settlements called Kibbutzes operate on principles and under regulations closely resembling those described in More's Utopia.
Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed. Published in 1974 when the Cold War had become established as a leading theme of much speculative and science fiction, The Dispossessed is a utopian novel about two worlds: one essentially a 1970s United States replete with capitalism and greed, and the other an anarchist society where the concept of personal property is alien to the people. One of the finest examples of the utopian novel produced in the last fifty years.
Still further afield from sailors' tales of island kingdoms but nevertheless enlightening in the broad study of man's aspirations toward a better world, one may consider some of the more sober expository documents such as: Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and his Social Contract, De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Carlyle's Past and Present, Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto, and Engel's "On Authority" from Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
The "classical revival" was at the center of the intellectual and artistic agitation of the age. It involved a realization — or rediscovery — that a very great civilization had flourished in ancient Greece and Rome and a conviction that conscientious study and imitation of that civilization offered the key to new greatness. The Renaissance artists studied ancient works of architecture and sculpture, not only for their form and technique but also for their spirit. Renaissance scholars came to appreciate the literature of the ancients as a storehouse of wisdom and eloquence, and through their study they acquired attitudes and developed tastes of enormous value: to challenge dogma, to recognize the authority of nature, and to regard living a full life in "this world" as an opportunity and an obligation. They came to believe in their right to accept and enjoy physical beauty and the whole sensory world. Finally they acquired a sense of the worth of the individual and of the dignity of man. Growing gradually out of these concepts came the philosophy of "humanism" and the magnificent achievements in the fine arts.
New Atlantis (1627) by Francis Bacon, is influential utopian novel that portrayed the vision of the education, discovery and knowledge in a fictional future society. Novel describes the discovery of mythical island Bensalem by the crew of a lost European ship, end their exploration of this utopian land and their central scientific institution - "Salomon's House". Description of such educational establishment represented one of the biggest inspirations for the forming of the early European Universities.
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.
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.