Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries or are the Utopian criminals. These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view. The wealth, though, is of little importance and is only good for buying commodities from foreign nations or bribing these nations to fight each other. Slaves are periodically released for good behaviour. Jewels are worn by children, who finally give them up as they mature.
The utopian spirit as we have been discussing it, is revealed through the written words of men who were critical of the world they lived in and dreamers of a better world. What we cannot forget is that there have been many instances of groups of people who believed strongly enough in the possibility of improving their lot to attempt the founding of new communities planned according to their ideal principles. Invariably such an undertaking has required a move from the "old country" that they found intolerable to a new, open territory. For this reason, America of the nineteenth century furnished admirable opportunities, and there were scores of such group settlements throughout the United States and Canada, large and small, successful and abortive. Some of these communities have endured through a good many generations, particularly those with a pronounced strain of pietism: the Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkards.
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.
“ [A] permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon. ”
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People are re-distributed around the households and towns to keep numbers even. If the island suffers from overpopulation, colonies are set up on the mainland. Alternatively, the natives of the mainland are invited to be part of these Utopian colonies, but if they dislike them and no longer wish to stay they may return. In the case of under-population the colonists are re-called.
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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.
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.
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.