An Ideal Pursuit
The individual and society are intertwined. From the moment that an individual is born into this world, he becomes part of a complex organization that will attempt to shape him into its norms. Thus, the individual can be considered a reflection of his society as his whole consciousness was shaped by his exposure to society (Spirkin, A. , chap. 5). In this way, the individual is a barometer of society. However, the reverse is also true. As the individual is exposed to society, he develops his own thinking that makes him aware of the inner workings of society.
It is in this frame of mind that the individual transcends from being a product to a producer in his society, attaining a sociological imagination or the ability to discern the relationship between social forces and the individual (Mills, p. 5). It is in this state that the individual seeks to improve upon his present state and in the process contributes to the alleviation of society (Elder and Paul, www. criticalthinking. org). Man in pursuit of the ideal is a common theme of human society.
The creation of governments and laws, the belief in religion, the invention of technology and even the publication of self-help books is evidence of man’s want to rise above. History presents us with individuals who have attained a sociological imagination and tried to posit their concepts of the ideal. In “the Republic”, Plato forwards a society where the government’s primary responsibility is to provide justice and education for its citizens and where citizens are divided into classes according to their skills and inclinations. Francis Bacon in his work “New Atlantis” imagines a utopia which is founded on research and science.
The White regarded the work was an attempt to make man aware that their full potential can be attained through an understanding of they themselves can do (as qtd in McKnight, 73). In Rousseau’s treatise “Social Contract”, he forwards the idea that the perfect means to set-up social order is for each individual to give up his own freedom to the general will and in turn the general will treats the individual as an “indivisible part” of itself. This general will is the good of all and constitutes the Social Contract. The works cited above are only a small part of the vast ideas of utopian theories which have been forwarded by enlightened men.
Some have had profound impacts on society such as the theory of Social Contract, also supported by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, which influenced moral and political writings in the West (Social Contract Theory, www. iep. utm. edu). However, this paper will focus on a certain work of a famous lawmaker in 15th century London and its similarities between another influential social concept that changed modern society: Utopia and Communism. Thomas More’s Utopia Thomas More’s Utopia was first printed in 1516 and is regarded as a “scholarly work that attacks the chief political and social evils” in 16th century England (Elibron Classics, pub.
p. 7). The book presents a perfect society wherein all social evils have been eradicated leaving a paradise of social satisfaction and peace. Melding fact and fiction, More presented his work as a series of correspondence between himself and the inhabitants of Utopia. It is through these dialogues that Utopia’s social, political and religious climates are described. Utopia opens with a conversation between Thomas More, his friend Peter Giles and a certain Raphael Hythloday where the latter relates his travels to More. In these travels, he reached different countries and was introduced to their people and culture.
He then goes on to relate the different strengths and weaknesses of the places he’d been while pointing what may be applied in England. Here, the three discuss the current social ills of England through a series of hypothetical situations. In this part, More criticizes the current rulers of England and how their actions have led to the decline of social order. In the next part of the book, More describes his idea of the perfect society. Utopia is a crescent-shaped island with the size of about two hundred by five hundred miles, its bay is surrounded by calm waters but its entrance is very rocky making it very dangerous for ships to penetrate.
On its other side are numerous harbours but these are protected by natural fortifications, making Utopia very hard to conquer (Utopia, p. 28). There were 54 cities in Utopia. Each one was made as similar as possible to each other, with identical laws and customs and each a walking distance from each other. Its capital was called Amaurot, where three senators from each city met annually to address concerns of the country. The Utopian Way of Life Agriculture is the most valued industry in Utopia. Evidence of this are the numerous farmhouses built around the cities of Utopia with each citizen taking pride in working in the farmlands.
The citizens are exposed to in their childhood and thus they have a deeper understanding of it. Every two years, families are rotated form the city to the farm to experience farm labour. The families are consisted of ten members with two slaves. There are no landlords in Utopia since property ownership is prohibited, promoting equality in all of its citizens. Every household in Utopia looks the same and anyone is welcomed to walk into any house. This stems from the principle of no private ownership and stems the urge to steal. Everyone wears the same all season clothes and is only differentiated according to gender and civil status.
The families in Utopia specialize in their own trades. This specialization is passed on from father to son. However, if a son chooses to specialize in another trade, he is encouraged to join another family who specializes in that trade. In this sense, families in Utopia are not bound by blood relations but are brought together by work and skill. Problems of population are solved because citizens have the freedom to move to other families to maintain the minimum number of people per family and families can be moved to other towns if these are under-populated or overpopulated.
Work is important in Utopia and everyone engages in it. They have six-hour workdays with the remaining hours spent for meals, rest and private time. Idleness is frowned upon, most citizens choose to spend their private time reading or attending lectures since most believe that happiness is found in the improvement of the mind. Everything is shared in Utopia. All their products are brought to marketplaces where they get, not buy, what they need and share what they have produced. In each city, they have communal dinners where all the food left from the markets is served to everyone.
Citizens are provided clean, well-equipped and well-staffed hospitals away from the town centres to avoid the spread of infectious disease. Values in Utopia Cooperation and sharing is very vital to the Utopian way of life. When families in the farms need help, they can just call on families in the cities to aid them. All things are shared, from the fruits of their labour to their homes. In their council meetings, their leaders allocate resources according to what each city needs and what it has in abundance. Their leaders and elders are held in high regard and are always served first in communal dinners.
The women respect their husbands; the children respect their parents and the young respects the old. Money for Utopians has no value as they value things according to their usefulness. The money they produce from their imports is allocated to their national treasury in times for war as Utopians prefer to hire other armies to fight for them. In order to curb the lust for precious metals, gold and silver are used for everyday things such as pots and pans making them accessible to anyone and effectively decreasing their value. Jewellery is only worn by slaves to further decrease their appeal.
All forms of religion are welcomed in Utopia and these are founded on a common principle: “That the soul of man is immortal, and that God of His goodness has designed that it should be happy; and that He has therefore appointed rewards for good and virtuous actions, and punishments for vice, to be distributed after this life. ” (Utopia, p. 49) They encourage the individual to pursue pleasure as far as the law allows it. However, no pleasure should be gained from the suffering or displeasure of another. They define virtue as “a living according to Nature, and think that we are made by God for that end” (Utopia, p.
48). From these virtues they created laws agreed upon by all and to be followed by all. They also believed in euthanasia, divorce and slavery but these are subject to very strict rules. Communism Communism is defined as “a political, social and economic system which the government is based on a collective society with land, property and economic activities are controlled by the state” (Lansford, p. 9). It was forwarded as a direct opposition to free-market opposition. Communism believes that the suffering of man stems from the abuse of the Bourgeoisie (the wealthy class) of the Proletariats (working class).
The proletariat must rise up and revolt to remove the Bourgeoisie’s hold on power. It is only through that revolution that a Communist State can exist, a state where there are no social or economic classes and all individuals are considered equal. The Ideals of Communism Its system is based on five principles: One, the government owns all businesses and thus controls the economy. There are no private businesses as all of these are owned by the government who also decide on products, services and production levels.
The government also employs all workers, determining their wages and occupations according to the skills the labourer possess. Two, there is no real estate as all properties are owned by the government. This is to ensure that all benefits of the land are equally distributed among members of the society. Three, the government’s control of wages creates classless society. By eliminating the Bourgeoisie and distributing their wealth to the poor and middle class, the government creates a society absent of the rich and poor. Four, all social welfare benefits are provided to the people free of charge.
Education is provided for everyone, anyone can go to the hospital and receive medical aid and pensions are provided even without the contribution of its citizens. Fifth, a communist regime is totalitarian in nature. This means that all forms of political expressions are limited and dissents are repressed. Usually, all forms of religion are abolished to promote a full commitment to the communist ideology. This is justified in the belief that to tolerate other ideologies will only impede the full development of the state. Utopia and Communism Thomas More’s Utopia and the principles of Communism are rooted in the same concepts.
In fact, writers usually describe Communism as an offspring of the “utopian” ideas forwarded by Plato and other ancient writers and as practiced by ancient communities (Lansford, p. 29). They reveal an idea of communal living, shared property and equality of wealth. One of the obvious similarities of Utopia and Communism is this idea of communal sharing. As in Communism, people did not own any property and the fruits of their labour were shared by everyone. Although Utopia advocated agriculture as its main industry, the practice of assigning workers to their specialization is implemented by both ideals.
All matters of economics are controlled also by the government in both ideals, in Utopia, Importation of goods are decided by the council, as is all matters of national interest. In Communism, the government also decides on all matters of economy, from the businesses to pursue till the wages of the workers. On the other hand, the differences of the two ideals are much more glaring than their similarities. One of their biggest differences is their belief in religion. Utopians encourage their citizens to pursue their own religions in the hopes of attaining happiness.
In Communism however, all other forms of ideology even religion are repressed to ensure that nothing will compete with the Communist ideology. If the Utopians avoided getting involved in wars, preferring instead to hire other armies to fight for them, Communism calls for a rise to arms to abolish class struggle. This belief has led to Communist regimes getting into conflicts with other non-communist countries. In the end, Communism suffers the fate as Utopia. As its etymology suggests, Utopia literally means “no” (from the Greek ou) and “place” (also from the Greek topos) (www.
east. merriam-webster. com). This translates into Utopia as an imaginary place which may never be attained by any society on Earth. Communism too is a Utopia that hasn’t been fully realized even by countries who labelled themselves as such. Daniels revealed that “Communism is grounded in illusion” (as qtd in Lansford, p. 9). Countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea adopted communist ideologies but after a few years became totalitarian regimes that didn’t answer the ideals of this system and some even worsened the struggle of the poor.
Most communist countries collapsed due to the inability to cope with the times and the dissatisfaction of the people (Lansford, p. 11). In conclusion, I think that both of these ideals will remain as such as long as we live in a world where premium is placed on wealth and materials. Communism failed in its practical application because most countries that adapted it abused its principles resulting in dictators and neglected populace. The fact that Thomas More described his Utopia as unaffected by the outside world reveals that even he himself believed that that kind of society will not survive in the context of the real world.
I believe that communism, at its core; will indeed lead to a Utopian society. However, in these times where technology is broadening the possibilities of human society and where economies are measured by their GDPs, the ideals of communal living, shared resources and the rejection of wealth will never be fully realized because man himself is satisfied to be a part of this ruthless capitalist world.
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