© 2009 Linsen. All rights reserved. Utopia

Utopia

A remarkable woman I had the good fortune to work with a few weeks ago recommended Thomas More’s classical text Utopia as a book she’d found formative. I found it in our university library and read it.

Written in 1516, this is the text to which we owe the now commonplace word utopia. It is a fairly dry discussion of More’s view of an ideal state, a topic that has interested thinkers for centuries, and continues to do so. His state is one without any private property, and where everyone works, where there is enough of everything needed to live, and where there are no luxuries.

That More was heavily influenced by Plato’s The Republic is rather striking, and both the functioning of his society and the style of his text is similar. I experience similar scepticism when reading Utopia as when I read The Republic - the society discussed seems very pleasant, but I am both too cynical of people to accept it’s functioning at face value, and too much of a individualist to feel comfortable with the very strict social structures the state requires. Furthermore, with Atlas Shrugged‘s aggressive defense of capitalism still fresh in my mind, I am somewhat biased against the socialist glorification of the “common worker”.

Despite these reservations, this text is insightful, and worth reading if only for the tremendous influence it has had in the centuries since it was written. For a more modern elaboration on much the same theme, I can strongly recommend Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World.

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