Early Socialist Thinkers: Owen, Saint-Simon, and Marx

1.) “The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World”

Author: Robert Owen. Welsh cotton manufacturer. Utopian socialist and a founder of the cooperative movement. Founder of (failed) New Harmony colony in the U.S. Had a vision of an ideal society.

Context: Great Britain, 1844. Industrial Revolution. Many of the Factory Acts were in place, including many that regulated child labor.

Language: Persuasive, confident, hopeful

Audience: The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland

Intent: To persuade listeners to begin a bloodless revolution driven by morality and wisdom.

Message: A complete reworking of society was necessary. “Men of industry” should unite to begin the bloodless revolution that will lead to a new and improved state of human existence.

Why?: Many factory owners during the Industrial Revolution abused their workers with long hours, unsafe conditions, and low wages. Owen ran his factories more benevolently and saw a utopic vision in which all of society was based on moral correctness and wisdom.

2.) “The Incoherence and Disorder of Society”

Author: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon. French political and economic theorist. Businessman. Believed in a meritocracy. Fought in the American Revolution. Supporter of French Revolution and imprisoned during the Reign of Terror.

Context: Saint-Simon lived in France under Napoleon and during the Bourbon Restoration (constitutional monarchy). Frequent occurrences of civil unrest.

Language: Passionate, sarcastic at times, easy to read

Audience: The industrial class–everyone engaged in productive work.

Intent: Disprove the principle behind laissez-faire economics. Advocate for a meritocracy.

Message: Industry needed to address the needs of the industrial class. Economics cannot be focused merely on statistics; society needs to take care of people and their needs.

Why?: Saint-Simon fought in the American Revolution, and his time in America likely exposed him to a society with fewer class distinctions than the one in which he lived. He also supported the French Revolution’s principles of equality, liberty, and fraternity, and his own work argues in favor of these principles as well. The Bourbon Restoration provided a more conservative government to France, and Saint-Simon may have reacted against his government’s conservative attitudes.

3.) “Estranged Labor” from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Author: Karl Marx. German philosopher, economist, and socialist. Moved to Paris in 1843. Prolific Writer. Father of Marxism.

Context: Marx lived in France during the July Monarchy, which was a time of liberal constitutional monarchy. Paris was the de facto headquarters for revolutionaries from all over Europe.

Language: Challenging to follow, very convoluted arguments, passionate tone

Audience: The intended audience (workers; the common man) likely differs from the audience who would be capable of actually comprehending Marx’s argument (academics and philosophers).

Intent: Turn society against capitalism.

Message: Capitalism hurts the laboring class because the more wealth a worker produces, the poorer he becomes. He is alienated from his product and estranged from himself. Society is divided into these propertyless workers and the owners of that property.

Why?: Other economic thinkers of the time, such as Ludwig Feuerbach influenced Marx, and he lived in Paris at a time when revolutionary minds filled the city. The July Monarchy followed the more conservative Bourbon Restoration, bringing a more liberal view into focus. Marx met many people who shared his views, and his views fermented and strengthened in this atmosphere.



Plato and More: A Discussion on Democracy

(Plato appears in Sir Thomas More’s chamber in Henry VIII’s castle)

More: So we meet again, Plato.

Plato: Greetings, Sir More.

M: So what shall the topic be for today’s cross-time continuum conversation?

P: I was thinking about discussing the topic of democracy today.

M: Why not. I’ll let you begin.

P: Let us first define the term democracy. Democracy is a state where freedom reigns supreme as the defining characteristic; the people may live life as they please, may take up any profession they please, and may speak without fear of unlawful censorship or persecution. They also are entitled to private property, where…

M: Private property? Ah, how amusing!

P: Is that so? I’m interested in your thoughts, More.

M: Well, I believe that the concept of private property is the source of class inequalities, thus creating injustice in society. It causes not only a sense of materialism but also the division of society into two classes: the rich and the poor. The rich develop a culture of buying and selling goods, or private property, that the poor laborers produce. Thus, the poor work for the benefit of the rich, causing inequality.

P: That is true. Seeing as how this system does not work, what shall you propose instead?

M: Private property should belong to the central government and be shared by all. This creates a society where all classes, while retaining individuality, combine their talents to produce property for the good of the entire State.

P: A truly just society…that is what you have just described. Where each man fulfills his/her role for the good of the State.

M: A truly just society is what democracy is NOT. In democracy, the poor work for the benefit of the few rich instead of the State as a whole. Justice can only be achieved by eliminating the freedom that paradoxically leads to inequality. Now tell me, Plato, what are your ideas of democracy?

P: I think that democracy, as defined by us earlier, is made unworthy of being called perfect by any means, as you have described it. However, I believe that the true downfall of democracy is the lack of proper leadership that exists because of it. If freedom is to thrive as the dominant quality of a democratic government, then there will be little chance of the people being willing to give in to a leader unless he/she stands for their direct interests. While a leader should definitely listen to his people, is he/ really acting in their interests by doing whatever they want him to do? I believe that because of this, an effective leader is unable of being chosen directly from the people; therefore, democracy at its core is unable of achieving true leadership.

M: Perhaps a form of indirect representation is needed? Where the people are represented by properly educated public officials, who nominate and elect the leaders based on the interests of the people? Anyways, it seems that according to both of us, pure democracy is unfit to be the government of a truly ideal State, even if it be due to different reasons.

P: At least at its core. There are many aspects of democracy that can be adapted to form an ideal government style. I see it as a step towards achieving a perfect society. Isn’t that something you’ve speculated upon, More, seeing as you invented the word “utopia”?

M: Oh come, now. Utopia, in its Greek context, means “a good place”; you of all people should know that. Furthermore, I wrote Utopia as a satire; merely a criticism against the governments of the time. Though many may argue otherwise, saying that it was intended as a “blueprint” for a perfect State or whatnot, I insist that criticism was my original intent. I believe a perfect society is impossible.

P: Even if a perfect society is possible, we can at least both agree that it does not take the form of pure democracy.

M: Indeed.

P: Well it has been enjoyable having a conversation with you, Sir More, but I must be getting back to my time. Until next time, my friend.

M: Farewell.

(Plato disappears from the room)

Dialogue between Plato and More

Plato and More meet to discuss the idea of democracy as a form of government.


Plato: A democracy being a proper form of government – you cannot be serious Thomas.


More: Yes I am quite serious. It will allow for the country to prosper and for the citizens to elect officials and create a society full of happiness.


P: Democracy is a joke and does not work. Look at the state and Greece and Athens right now. Does it really look like democracy is working?


M: The democracy that Greece has is not a true democracy and is severely corrupted. A true democracy would never be run the way Greece is.


P: Thomas even if you create a democracy it will fail because over time it will become corrupted.


M: You really need to have more faith in the members of society. You make them seem so selfish and greedy. If a proper society is created individuals will want what is best for the overall community and not just what is best for them.


P: You are way too idealistic. Society needs rulers who have been trained their entire life. These individuals will be taken at a young age and learn what it takes to rule and how to rule a society. These individuals will be called philosopher kings and they surely will not have their minds corrupted by this idea of democracy.


M: That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard Plato you make people seem like they are sheep and need a shepherd to lead them. Your perception of man disgusts me. You must have more faith in people. People will work together so that they can have an overall better way of life. Democracy is a just form of government because not only is it “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”(dictionary.com) but it is the way to forming a utopia.


P: You must have lost your mind. This is truly the most bizarre thing I have heard. I don’t understand why you have such a difficult time understanding that democracy will never work. Democracy leads to chaos because it creates class separation in which the classes will eventually clash and the poor will revolt against the individuals in power. In addition, democracy makes society veer further and further away from a utopia.


M: If you were truly educated as you brag that you are, Plato, than you would know from reading my book Utopia that a society is most happy when the government is not involved and citizens feel that they aren’t being ruled. Your idea of the philosopher king is creating an elitist society where only the strongest and smartest can rule. These individuals cannot relate to the common man and will not know how to rule common people because these “philosopher kings” have an unrealistic perception of society and expect more from people than they really can do.


P: Thomas you have made a very good point. I want to sleep on this new concept that you have made me think about. Want to meet tomorrow for lunch to discuss further?


M: Most certainly.

Plato and More

Two men are seated in the middle of a room. One of them- draped in a thick, fur coat with a silk sash resting neatly on the shoulders- appears to be at ease. Sitting up straight in his chair, he glances over at the other man and offers a soft, almost cautious nod. There is a pause, as his balding, toga-clad companion mulls over the gesture. He seems undecided. Then, after a long silence he lifts his chin and returns the motion.

These actions- small and seemingly trivial- ultimately set the stage for the rest of the conversation. The two discuss democracy among many other subjects, but though each man has an opinion on such, their views prove to vary quite a bit.

“Democracy,” Plato starts, smoothing down the wrinkled fabric of his toga, “is simply not efficient.”

Thomas More raises an eyebrow. “Why do you say that, good sir?”

“The right to leadership should be earned. One should not become ruler because they are elected by the majority; doing so might leave room for inadequate men to govern simply because of their popularity.”

“Interesting. I see your point, but wouldn’t this cause unhappiness amongst the people?”

“Perhaps- but it entirely depends on how one chooses to view the situation. If this utopia were to be as successful and functional as possible, then surely the people living in it would be very pleased with such! Having the fortune of residing in such a successful, ideal society would promote happiness and a thus a very positive outlook on life.”

More considers this. Slowly, he lifts one leg and crosses it deliberately over the other, his brow furrowed in thought.  “If you don’t mind me asking, what would determine this?”

“Intelligence in the skills of arithmetic and dialect.”

“Intelligence?” Both eyebrows arched now, More eyes Plato skeptically. “That seems biased, does it not? In my utopia, there is equality for all who deserve it. We do not discriminate based on uncontrollable aspects of oneself; the only discrimination that occurs is the type that they bring upon themselves.”

There is silence, so More continues.

“If one commits a crime, they become a slave and spend the rest of their life serving the community. Everyone starts with a clean slate- no matter how intelligent they are- but what defines one is their actions.”

Almost instantly this elicits a laugh from Plato, who is seated at the other end of the room. Shaking his head in bemusement, he glances over at the disapproving More, before up at the large, glass window to his left. They have been talking for such an extended period of time that the sun has shifted, thus leaving Plato sitting in a tiny sliver of light, as opposed to the rest of the room that is filled with darkness. Still chortling softly over More’s words, Plato stands and drags his chair over to the other man, so that they are now both sitting in the shadows. Then, he speaks once more.

“You really believe that a utopia could be successfully ruled by someone who is not of the highest caliber?”

“Yes,” More says confidently, intent on proving his argument valid. “I do. Caliber is not necessarily defined by intelligence at all. By letting the people select their leader, the person who wins the election will not only be universally liked, but will know the community well enough to make necessary changes. An intelligent man might only be familiar with other intelligent men; but an average, well-rounded man will no doubt have a wider breadth of knowledge.”

Plato folds his hands and rests them on his chest, leaning back in his chair.

“I cannot say that I agree with you,” he starts slowly, “But I respect your opinion just the same. I apologize for my behavior earlier- looking back, it was somewhat out of place- but it puzzles me as to how two utopias can be so different.”

“Plato, do not worry. I completely understand, because this conversation is just as foreign to me as it is to you, dear friend. It was fascinating to hear what you had to say, even if it was and quite honestly, will continue to be a struggle for me to understand. What did you say the leaders of your society were called?”

“Philosopher kings. They are, to put it rather colloquially, the best of the best. It takes years upon years to perfect the skills to become such, which is certainly not an easy task.”

“Oh, I’m sure. Interesting, very interesting.”

“As is your policy of democracy. I had not viewed it in such a way prior to having this conversation with you, and though I am certainly not in favor of it, your reasoning has made me less averse to such.”

“Why thank you, I appreciate your open-mindedness. I have to get going now- it is getting rather dark in here and seeing is becoming a struggle- but I hope to speak with you soon. Shall we get together again one of these days?”

“Absolutely. Speaking to you was a pleasure.

“As it was with you. Goodbye, Sir Plato.”

“Goodbye, Sir More.”

Paper Proposal

Since Thomas More first coined the phrase “utopia” in his eponymous book, idealists, realists, and cynics alike have been fascinated with the possibility creating an ideal society. We have exhaustively explored the concept in fictional and critical contexts, with utopias at the focus of numerous works of literature, film, and scholarship. Various subcultural groups, such as the shakers and transcendentalists in the 19th century, attempted to create insular utopian communities. The evident human fascination with utopia raises numerous questions: can a utopian society be actualized? Is it possible for humans, with their diverse interests and often selfish needs, to coexist in an ideal setting, developing a socio-political structure that is desirable to all?

Past attempts at creating utopian communities tells us that the likely answer to this question is ‘no’, but that doesn’t mean that some societies come closer to a utopian state than others. In my paper, I will examine factors that contribute to quality of life within a society and attempt to determine the effect of political structure (ie, monarchy versus democracy) on the happiness of citizens. In any given nation, the government will be ultimate agent for controlling factors such as crime rates, employment, respect for human rights, and access to health care and education, all of which will impact the quality of life for citizens within that state. By examining aspects such as these across the globe, research groups have for more than two decades attempted to quantify the average happiness of citizens within different nations to determine which places on earth are the best or worst to live. The end result of this research is a series of annual lists that rank the countries on earth in order of the average happiness of their citizens. These “Best and Worst Nations to Live In” lists are released annually and often given perfunctory coverage in magazines or news programs. Discussion of these rankings within the media is superficial at best, with no attempts to understand the methodology for rankings or the implications that they carry. It is understandable to be skeptical of the idea of quantifying a concept as intangible as happiness, but I believe that these rankings carry implications that are not examined in the media – for example, they contain unexamined truths about the effect of government on quality of life. In order to examine the effect of political structure on happiness of citizens, I will use these rankings as a starting point for my research and compare the nations that rank highest as the most desirable to live in and compare them with the nations that rank the lowest. I will attempt to answer the following questions: which political systems lead to the happiest citizens? Why is this so? I will then compare my findings to the utopian societies described by More and Plato to see whether their ideas have been realized – or could be realized – in the modern world.

My standard for this paper will be the 2011 index compiled by the United Nations (UN). United Nations is an international organization that operates with funding from 34 member countries. Among other initiatives, the UN has compiled a wealth of statistical information to compile its rankings, and as a non-for profit organization without any governmental affiliation, the UN can be trusted to give unbiased and objective statistics and other information. Using these indexes as a starting point, I will delve deeper into investigating the factors that contribute to or detract from quality of life, such as protection of rights, employment rates, and access to healthcare, and more. For this information, I will draw from research conducted by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the Organizatoin for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC), Partners In Health, and Journalists without Borders. All data generated by these organizations is published on their websites and available for the public to download and use as research. When comparing nations, I will use a methodology similar to that used by sociologist Max Weber when conducting his comparative historical analyses to determine the causes of the industrial revolution. Professor Stephen Kalberg details Weber’s methodology in his recent book Max Weber’s Historical analysis, which I have checked out from the library. I will also draw from the ideas of philosopher John Rawles, in particular his “veil of ignorance” thought experiment, and the societies described by Plato in The Republic and Thomas More in Utopia. Criticism of Rawles, Plato, and More can be found in numerous books in the dickinson library or through the library’s databases.


Primary Sources

Plato. The Republic. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000.

More, Thomas. Utopia. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.

United Nations Development Reports. United Nations. Last modified November 2, 2011, http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/

This website is the hub for all of the statistics compiled by UN researchers each year. This page contains the most recent ranking for human development and happiness (completed in 2011) as well as individual country profiles with access to statistics and ratings concerning factors such as health, poverty, inequality and education. This resource will be highly valuable to me in comparing specific aspects that affect quality of life within different countries.

Human Rights Watch World Report. Human Rights Watch. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/wr2010.pdf

Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2011-2012,1043.html

Secondary Sources

Kalberg, Stephen. Max Weber’s Comparative Historical Analysis Today. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012.

This recent book by sociologist Stephen Kalberg deconstructs the methodology used by Max Weber when he conducted his comparative historical analysis in the 19th century. Kalberg applies Marx’s methodology to his own comparative analysis, tracing forces such as the singularity in american culture and the foundations of modern citizenship. Kalberg’s book will allow me to use Weber’s methodology to determine the relationship between political structure and individual happiness. It will offer a comprehensive guide when researching and writing my paper.

Firth, David and Marshall, Gordon. “Social Mobility and Personal Satisfaction: Evidence from Ten Countries.” The British Journal of Sociology 50, no. 1 (1999): 28-48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/522763

de Vries, Willem F. M.. “Meaningful Measures: Indicators on Progress, Progress on Indicators.” International Statistical Review 69, no. 2 (2001): 313-331. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1403818

The Success of Celebration, Florida (Paper Proposal)

Sam Bellissimo

Paper Proposal

In my research paper, I plan on discussing the town of Celebration, Florida, which was an intentional community proposed by Walt Disney himself. Intentional communities have been attempted a variety of different times over the past hundred years, but despite the good intentions they are created with, failure has proven to be much more prominent than success. Celebration was founded less than fifteen years ago, so unlike other communities where one can blatantly identify achievement (or more often, lack of,) it is still developing and thus has much room for improvement. I plan to divide my paper into the following three sections to address the three basic aspects that will hopefully aid me in making a final judgment as to whether Celebration has been successful or not.

The first section will outline the mantra and goals of Celebration, in order to lay a foundation for the rest of the paper. One cannot begin to analyze a town without taking into account why, by whom, and under what premises it was founded. Were certain rules established from the start to make it as ideal as possible? Was it created in the name of perfection, or did the founders recognize early on that trying to make everything perfect would be impossible? These are important questions I plan on proposing in my paper. Branching off of that, the second section will dive into how the members of Celebration plan on executing and living by the ideals under which the town was created. This thought will lead into additional questions revolving around how Celebration is maintained. Is there a local branch of government? Are there events within the town to bring the community together, and thus create a friendly, almost Utopian environment? Questions like these will help generate information that will help me formulate an opinion in regard to the success of the town, which will take place in the third section. This third section will take all of the information from the previous two sections and use them as evidence to help establish exactly how successful the town has been thus far. There has been murder, homicide within Celebration- but do those controversies lessen the quality of life, or are they simply just a bump in the road? Controversial findings like this- and more- will be evaluated and will ideally help me come to a conclusion about the town.

I think the “so what” aspect of my paper will be some of the previously mentioned questions. Disney is often associated with being “the happiest place on earth,” so I think people will be interested to see how a town not only founded by Disney, but located ten minutes away from Disney World, will function. Will it be just like the theme park, where everything is highly functional and there is no room for corruption and imperfection? Will it be so ideal that it compares to Thomas More’s idea of a Utopia? In the novel Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town, the author mentions the town being criticized for the lack of diversity, claiming that it is “elitist: gingerbread glosses over social inequity” (Frantz.) Can Celebration be successful in acting on its cornerstones of “health, education, technology, sense of community, and sense of place” when such comments are being made about it? Additionally, intentional communities are really dying down in the world, so I believe that people might take interest in how one functions in the first place.

Unfortunately, not much work has been done on Celebration prior to my essay. As previously mentioned, it was founded pretty recently, and thus has not been under the public eye as much as one might have expected. The majority of the sources I found were articles that were either written for a newspaper and put online afterwards, or were written with the sole intention of being published on the Internet. However, the Celebration official website was very helpful in providing me with information about the foundation and intentions of the town, while Frantz’s novel about living in Celebration gave me the unbiased perspective of a resident. Additionally, I was able to discover information about Walt Disney’s original vision for the Celebration community when I discovered author Kathleen Hogan on the Virginia University database. For example, I learned that the town was originally going to be called EPCOT (short for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), but that EPCOT was too much like a futuristic Utopia, and was instead turned into a Disney World theme attraction. I struggled with finding print sources, but I do believe that I was able to unveil a variety of different sources online that will help me learn more about Celebration.



Primary Sources:

“Official Website of the Community of Celebration| Located next to Walt Disney World | Celebration, FL.” Official Website of the Community of Celebration, 2011. Accessed September 25, 2012. http://www.celebration.fl.us/

–          This is the Celebration, Florida official website, and is very informative when it comes to the basics of the town. A variety of information tidbits are present here, such as the mantra, goals, and cornerstones that Celebration prides itself in having. It is a very tourist friendly site, so not only does it apply to native  Celebration members when it outlines community events and such, but it also talks about restaurants and other attractions that visitors might be interested in. This source is probably a bit biased because it was made by an official of the town, but it is informative just the same.

Booth, William. “Planet Mouse: At Disney’s Tomorrowland, The Future Is a Timid Creature.” The Washington Post, June 24, 1998. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-653879.html

Frantz, Douglas, and Collins, Catherine. Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2000.

–          Though I have yet to read the entire novel, by reading a few different summaries and the first chapter, I can tell that this book is a valuable source. Journalists Frantz and Collins moved from Westport, Connecticut to Celebration, Florida in 1997. The novel tells of what it was like to live there from the nonbiased, open-minded perspective of this family new to the town. From what I can tell, there is insight on everything from real estate to the education system, so the breadth really allows for one to gain insight into the town through the eyes of actual citizens.

Pollan, Michael. “Town-Building Is No Mickey Mouse Operation”. New York Times Magazine, December 14, 1997. Accessed September 25, 2012.

Severson, Kim. “Celebration, Florida, Has Its First Killing.” The New York Times Online, December 2, 2010. Accessed September 25, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/us/03celebration.html.

Quinn, Judy. “Disney Town Sparks (at least) Two Books.” Publisher’s Weekly, March 10, 1997. Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/19970310/33312-disney-town-sparks-at-least-two-books-.html

Wisch, Robyn. “How Far Are We From Disney’s Utopia?” KVNO News Online, April 6, 2011. Accessed September 25, 2012.



Secondary Sources:

Hogan, Kathleen. “Walt’s Vision.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. Accessed September 27, 2012. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma98/hogan/celebration/epcot.htm

–          I found this source to be extremely useful, because it went into the history of Walt Disney’s intentions and what he had planned Celebration to be. Unlike many of the other websites I encountered, that told of people living in Celebration, this one was very factual and provided me with great historical context. For example, had I not found this source I would not have known details like what kind of land Walt was looking for when he rented a private plane to fly over Florida, or the fact that theme park of EPCOT had been originally intended to be this intentional community.

Hogan, Kathleen. “Celebration, Florida.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. Accessed September 27, 2012. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma98/hogan/celebration/main.html





Paper Proposal


Where Technology meets Religion

While reading and analyzing Plato’s The Republic and More’s Utopia through class discussion, it has been made quite clear that human nature poses a major problem in shaping ideal societies. No “perfect” society can truly be formed. Even in films like “Metropolis” and “Gattaca” it was greed, lust, anger and pride that led to failures of their technological worlds and made it a dystopia. However, would those worlds have succeeded if there was a way to limit human desires? Karl Marx argues in the Communist Manifesto that it is the unsatisfying human wants that will lead to innovation and make capitalism prosper but in the process it will also create class differences and essentially, a dystopia. However, even Marx’s theory would be proved wrong if wants were restrained. Is it possible for capitalism to exist without having class difference oppression? Or is instant social revolution always the answer? My paper’s objective will be to apply the religious practices in More’s Utopia and the education methodologies in Plato’s Republic to the technological utopian society in I, Robot. Combining each of these authors’ ideas may possibly unveil the ideal society they were striving to achieve. It may also mean that happiness for all may not mean sacrificing the happiness of the capitalists through communism, as Marx had suggested in the Manifesto.

The impending problem to any technological utopia is the volatile temperament of human nature, which is swayed by the slightest selfish nudge. Therefore, we must somehow control this desire or want in humans. In Plato’s The Republic and More’s Utopia, we come across many ways in which the authors propose to control this yearning. Compulsive religious affiliation as in More’s Utopia will allow people to strive for spiritual means rather than materialistic things. While looking for a way to find the religious enlightenment they will discard greed, lust, anger and pride. In More’s Utopia we see that happiness cannot be found from wealth, rather from the satisfaction that comes from helping others and devoting yourself towards religion and self-sacrifice. Fearing the repercussions of causing chaos in this world prevents violent or selfish thoughts. Could religious association serve as a restraint to the unlimited wants that humans naturally desire?
With that said, there also must be a way to enforce these ideas and provide a strong sense of discipline and faith within the people. Here, I would like to use Plato’s ideas of raising the philosopher king and guardians which he had identified in books 2,3,4 and 8. If selfish wants and the desire for better life are not encouraged in society will they ultimately become obsolete?
Robbin (1969) in his article “Utopia: Ideal or Illusion” illustrates that the concepts in Utopia were not as optimistic and impractical as suggested by critics, rather they were quite applicable in real life. Dominique (2009) in his article “The More Part: Upstaging the Law” agrees that More also did believe that good will and the right sense of justice could create a utopia.
On the contrary in Kessler’s, “Religious Setting for More’s Utopia“, he discusses that More’s work was strongly influenced by his resentment of the Catholic Church for their one religion propaganda and the English monarchy, which ran on the King’s personal motives rather than the good of the people. In the same way, Plato resented society because it killed his teacher, Socrates and led him to believe that democracy was flawed because the opinions of the majority were not always correct and therefore his Republic believes in an elitist society. These works were flawed because they were not completely unbiased and hence, could not achieve the ideal society that they were thriving for.

The work is quite original in that no one has so far compared Plato or More with the movie I, Robot, let alone integrated these ideas to form a Utopia. However, there are many that have analyzed the similarities between Plato’s and More’s works and how one influenced the other (Miles, Leland, “The Platonic Source of Utopia’s ‘Minimum Religion’“). Furthermore, a utopia without extreme insurgent ideas is relatively new as previous utopian writers have suggested that it would be impossible to model a new society while following the rules of the present one or without undergoing a revolution.
In regards to research materials, I already have the books, “The Republic”, “Utopia” and “The Communist Manifesto”. The film, I, Robot can either borrowed from the library or viewed online through any one of the popular video streaming websites. My secondary sources i.e. the articles and books are available through Dickinson College Library Database (EbscoHost) and their personal catalog.


Plato, . The Republic. New York: Dover Thrift, 2000.
Plato recounts the dialogues that Socrates had with other students and fellow citizens to answer the question, “What is Justice?” and the what makes a ‘perfect’ state. He uses metaphors and different allegories to try to understand the concept of justice in different contexts. Finally he comes to the conclusion that they could do all the thinking they wanted but maybe true justice is something unachievable by humans in their current state. This book also gives methodologies on raising leaders or effective members of society which I believe are essential to apply to the ideal society proposed in my paper.

More, Thomas. Utopia. New York: Dover Thrift, 1997.
More imagines a perfect world in a island separated from the rest of society. His world practices religious tolerance, excessive democracy and the people do not own property. His society prospers on optimistic belief in human nature and mostly positive fundamentals. More’s emphasis on religion and good practices are a vital element in controlling human wants which I intend to show with my paper.


Marx, Karl, and Freidrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Dover Thrift, 2003.

Proyas, Alex. “I, Robot.” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Mediastream Vierte Film       GmbH & Co.             Vermarktungs KG, Davis Entertainment. Decem,14 2012. DVD
The film is about a technological utopia where robots are the ones doing all sorts of labor and making the lives of humans easier. Although the film’s main focus is around a homicide of one of the major scientists who developed robotics, it shows what a society where capitalism is successful can be like. It helped me see what a technological utopia could be like and hence is also an important setting for my paper.

Johnson, Robbin S. More’s Utopia: Ideal and Illusion. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1969.

Here the author explores some of the concrete and realistic(idyllic) features of More’s Utopia and the concepts to be learnt from it. People can learn about human nature and themselves from Utopia and can learn know how their evils can be controlled and also what human society should aspire to be like. Thomas More’s work should not be criticized for being too optimistic rather consulted for its realistic aspects that can be applied in real life. The author cites the opinions of articles that analyze the pragmatic concepts of Utopia.

Miles, Leland. “The Platonic Source of Utopia’s ‘Minimum Religion’.” Renaissance News  9,         vol.2 (1956): 83-90.

Goy-Blanquet, Dominique. “‘The More Part’: Upstaging the Law.” Law and Humanities 3., vol. 2
(2009): 151-74.

This article tries to answer if More believed in his ideas that good law and education can run a society well and did he believe some laws could be changed so that a perfect society can exist with flaws.
His behavior in life contradicted his ideas. However, since he died upholding his sense of justice he possibly could have believed some of them. More’s doubt in his ideas not only reflected in his ideas but also in his life decisions. The author draws on contradictions between More’s life choices and principles in Utopia by referring to accounts More’s Biography.

Sanford, Kessler. “Religious Freedom in Thomas More’s “Utopia”.” The Review of Politics 64, no. 2          (2002): 207-229.

Religion and Utopias

Religion and Utopias


In their works on utopian societies, Plato and More believe that religion is key to the function of a society. They suggest that religious beliefs affect the morality of a society’s members and thus the preservation of the society itself.  While Plato believes in “gods” and that society members should strive to attain the Form of the Good, a strict moral code, More believes that although many religious sects can exist in a society, society members should acknowledge one true deity. In the paper, Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia will be analyzed to determine what role they believe religion plays in the overall function of their utopian societies. Then, their ideals will be compared to those of four religious communities that were founded in 18th and 19th century America.  These communities were created as “utopian” societies that were founded upon very different religious ideals. The ideals of these American communities, The Shakers, Brook Farm, the Rappites, and The Oneida Community, will be presented to highlight the way in which religious beliefs affect the overall structure and success of the community.  Finally, how Plato and More operationalize religion in their utopias will be compared to the way in which religious beliefs were implemented in the four American communities and eventually contributed to their demise.


This paper will look at how important religion is to the creation of Plato and More’s utopias.  Next, it will examine whether Plato and More’s religious ideals were realistic or too idealistic to be implemented into an actual society.  The Shakers, Brook Farm, the Rappites, and the Oneida Community were American communities that expressed their religious beliefs in different and radical ways for the time period.  The similarities and differences between the communities will be discussed.  One important question will be examined in relation to each community.  How did the practices of each community affect its longevity?  Were the religious ideals of these communities too radical for the times?  Is it possible for a religious community to continue to function if a core belief is celibacy?  Why did all of the American communities ultimately fail? Finally, how can the ideals of these communities be compared to those of Plato and More?  Would Plato and More’s communities be successful if their religious ideals were implemented in present day society?


Little research exists on the comparison of Plato and More’s ideas on religion and the ideals of religious communities in 18th and 19th America. Exploring this topic will allow readers to create connections between two of the greatest works of all time and the way in which different religious beliefs of early American religious “utopias” affected their viability. Analyses of the religious ideals of early American “utopias” that failed can provide us information about how to create an actual utopian environment that may succeed.  How religious views of a society’s members affect the morality and social structure of the community can also be examined. The study of utopias is still very important today because even though a true utopia is not attainable, if society strives to become better and uses the ideals of Plato and More and the four religious communities, society will be able to function better as a whole.


The concept of utopia is still relevant today because individuals throughout history have been discussing this idea, but have never been able to create a true utopia. Numerous books, articles, and websites will allow me to explore this topic in depth. I own both the Republic and Utopia. Using the library’s website I was able to find five books that I will use as secondary sources for my paper. The books are Brook Farm, Religion and Sexuality, Oneida Community an Autobiography, 1851-1876, and The Cambridge Companion to Plato. In addition, I have found a website that was created by the National Park Service that provides a lengthy description of the four religious communities I will discuss. The short annotated bibliography below gives a more in depth description of the sources I have listed.


Primary Sources:


Jowett, Benjamin. Plato The Republic. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.

This book discusses Plato’s ideas on creating a utopia and how he believes society must be structured and how individuals need to be trained to form his ideal utopia. In addition, it discusses his ideas on religion and what part he believes religion plays in society.


More, Thomas. Utopia. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997.

This book discusses More’s ideas on society and how he conceptualizes a utopia. More discusses the island of Utopia where Raphael traveled.  He describes Utopia’s way of life and how they live. More also discusses his ideas on religion and what role he believes it plays in society.



Secondary Sources:


Swift, Lindsay. Brook Farm: Its Members, Scholars, and Visitors. New York,

New York: Corinth Books, 1961.

This book describes the Brook Farm community and details  how it is structured, the buildings and grounds of the community, the industries of the community, the household work, and the amusements and customs of the community. In addition, the book addresses the school system of the community, its members, and visitors.


Foster, Lawrence. Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

            This book discusses the Shaker community. The book explains the origins of Shakerism, early growth of the movement, organizing the movement, daily life among the Shakers, membership, and the spiritual manifestations: crisis and renewal.


Robertson, Constance N. Oneida Community: An Autobiography, 1851-1876.

Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1970.


This book discusses the Oneida Community. It goes into detail about where they lived, how they lived and worked, what they believed, their education, their idea of complex marriage, the role women played in the community, and stirpiculture.


Kraut, Richard. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, New York: Cambridge

University Press, 1992.

This book tells us about Plato’s ideas on religion. It also compares Plato’s religious ideas to the ideas of religion that the Greeks had.


“Utopias in America.” National Park Service, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012



Comparison: Republic and Utopia

Sam Wittmer

One of the interesting characteristics of two fictional Utopian societies, Thomas More’s Utopia and Plato’s Republic, is that in these model societies there is a recognized inequality among the people.  In the setting we live in, one infatuated with the idea of equality, it may seem surprising to know that these philosophers believed that a perfect society would have people that were better than others.  The relationships of ruler to subject, in The Republic and Utopia, are based upon a group of the elite presiding, not forcefully, over another group that the society has been determined to be in a different position, with each party doing their duty for the gain of the State.

Although the statuses of the citizens of each state are not equal, there is not unrest among the classes.  Plato speaks of a metaphor that the people should be told to explain these different classes; humans are each comprised of a type of metal from birth that determines status; gold, silver, and iron or bronze.  Those of gold, the guardians or rulers, would preside over those who were simply not born to rule.[1]  In Utopia, as well, the state is structured with people who are higher, such as the prince and the priests. Its structure allows it to function.  Workers produce goods which are equally distributed to all—including the higher class—and from the rulers they receive protection. Each class relies on the other.

In Utopia, the act of manual labor or labor in general is not looked on with disdain as it often is in societies that esteem nobility, but is respected and even revered.  Some devotees to religion would dedicate themselves to laborious tasks that no others would want to do.  The state’s opinion of them is that “by their stooping to such servile employments, they are so far from being despised, that they are so much the more esteemed by the whole nation.”[2] This respect (from the ruling class) of labor comes from the understanding that labor is not simply the unsightly means to an end, but part of a system of cogs.  In The Republic as well, Plato speaks of the duty of the ruled to be productive in their best strengths for the good and for the rulers to govern justly and that this network is to be respected—that the system is a relationship of mutual understanding of duty.

The rulers of these two societies function as parts of their state and recognize their duty to lead instead of being tyrants.  Therefore, the lower classes work to serve the community to fulfill their duty.









[1] Plato, The Republic (Toronto: Dover, 2000), 86-87

[2] Thomas More, Utopia (Toronto: Dover, 1997), 76