Utopians are ambivalent, in fact illogical if not morally arrogant, about killing for food or defense. They eat animals but "they do not allow their citizens to be accustomed to butchering animals" but rather have "bondsmen" do this because they believe that butchering animals for food "gradually eliminates compassion, the finest feeling of human nature." (68) Bondsmen are apparently immune to such a descent into moral corruption, or else they are bondsmen exactly because they are already morally degraded and so either immune to further corruption or they are beyond moral rectification, and therefore the moral consequences of killing for food cannot matter for their moral selves. So bondsmen who butcher animals either have no compassion, it having been gradually eliminated through butchering, or because their moral precondition, their qualification of moral impurity, includes diminished compassion from which their moral descent continues, or else they have compassion and, being bondsmen, they are somehow immune from the moral consequences of killing for food, either because of their moral deficiency or because bondsmen have a moral strength that the citizens of Utopia lack.
England, in the year 1500, was emerging from a century of grim civil wars during which the cultural life of the country had deteriorated to a deplorable state. It was not until 1485 that the civil wars were ended by the victory of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, at Bosworth Field, establishing the Tudor dynasty with the crowning of Henry Tudor as Henry VII. During the next 118 years under the reign of the Tudors, especially through the long reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, England attained the status of a first-rate European power and produced a flourishing culture scarcely equaled in all the history of Western civilization.
In George Orwell's 1984 (1949), the society of the year 1984 which Orwell projects for us is based on the assumption that a "limited" nuclear war of the 1950s had left civilization severely crippled and that government controls were seized by well-organized opportunists employing the familiar methods of a police state to maintain power. London, the scene of the novel's action, is the capital of Oceania, one of three superpowers. The other superpowers are called Eastasia and Eurasia. The city of London contains a few enormous government buildings and a small number of fine apartment buildings, but the vast majority of the buildings are eighteenth- or nineteenth-century houses in dilapidated condition which provide shelter for the common people. There are also a good many neglected bombed-out areas. Certainly this is not a picture of somebody's dream city.
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.
These statements occur near the end of Book 1, which began, after some preliminaries, with a conversation about the justice of the death penalty for theft. (In an endnote on page 145, Miller tells of a report from 1587 that "in the reign of Henry VIII alone 72,000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged.") Hythloday believes that theft is a necessary consequence of personal property. Unstated but evident is that he believes also that personal property is not only a sufficient condition for theft (which makes theft a necessary consequence of it), but also a necessary condition for theft (which makes theft contingent upon it). Removing personal property, then, removes the possibility of theft, he believes: with the unexamined assumption that you cannot steal what you already own in common with everyone else. But of course you can: you take it and keep it for yourself so no one else can use it, taking what belongs to everyone, and not sharing it with anyone. Only the coercion of others, through established law or otherwise, can alter this. But then you are back to the existence of theft and social restraints to admonish and respond to it.
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.
The text of Utopia is in two books. Book 1 was written after Book 2. It is in Book 2 that the society of the place named `Utopia' is described by a traveler, Raphael Hythloday, who through his travels had lived there for a time and has returned to England to report on what he learned. Book 1 is a lead-in to Book 2 and was probably intended to establish interest in the subject of Book 2. The narrative form of Book 1 is a conversation of Hythloday with Thomas More and Peter Giles, and of Book 2 the form is a monologue by Hythloday.
The new plan of society does not conform to many of the familiar features of classical utopias. Money is used in much the way it was used in the 20th century — for wages, for the purchase of goods and property, and for amusements and travel. Most radical of the anti-utopian features is the denial of equality. Mankind is classified in a caste system that is achieved through controlled genetics and that insures the society a supply of dull-witted, underdeveloped individuals to perform the less agreeable jobs and those demanding lesser skills.
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.