Socialist ideals have recurred throughout the history of literature; from Plato to Marx the elusive goal of a perfect state has occupied some of the best minds in political thought manifesting itself in literature. In the midst of this historic tradition is the Utopia of More, a work which links the utopias of the ancient with the utopias of the modern. Hythloday's fantasy island draws heavily on the Greek Republic and yet it influenced the revolutionary world of Marx. What values do the Utopians hold which are in common with other socialist utopian values, and which ideals of theirs are unique?
If one characteristic could be found which distinguishes a socialist state from all others it would be the absence of social and economic classes. In Plato's Republic there are only class distinctions as there are separations between the Harmony of the soul with the virtues; the philosopher, who lives a life of contemplation, is closer to perfection than all else. In Marx's state the proletariat rebels to once and for all abolish all class distinctions amalgamating the bourgeoisie, through necessity, into their own class creating a solitary class. This is the most crucial and distinctive trait of a socialist utopia.
More's land lacks classes because everyone shares in the same work, everyone is equal, and everyone has the same rights. In Utopia there is an obligation for all to work a minimum of six hours everyday at whatever he is best at. All people spend time in the country working the land, as this is an agriculturally based society they must assure themselves of continued crop growth. In addition to creating the same conditions for everyon...
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...aying, "If the Utopians can create such a good and just state with only natural reason to guide them, why can't England, belonging to a religion which promotes goodness and brotherly love, come up with something at least as good?" This then is More's wish, a Christian socialism.
Ferguson, John. Utopias of the Classical World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1975.
Manuel, Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel. Utopian Thought in the Western World. Cambridge, MA: Belknap-Harvard Press, 1979.
More, Thomas. Utopia, ed. And trans. H.V.S. Ogden. AHM Publishing Corporation, Illinois, 1949
Plato. Republic. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1974.
Rice, Eugene E. and Anthony Grafton. The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559. 2nd. ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1994.
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