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Utopia's origin in the More's and hopes of the individual author's times.
Utopia is the place where all our needs are balanced by abundant resources. Utopia is believed to be a perfect state, a place which has social justice, political peace, and moral harmony in all aspects of life. If such a place did exist, how would it be structured? How would people work and live together in harmony, while at the same time have all their needs met, and live in abundance so that their desires for profit, prosperity, and personal freedom were met? In 1516, Sir Thomas Moore wrote his epic "Utopia." His work was the result of political and social unrest, and the goal of his work seemed to be to unsettle the thinking of the English empire. Long settled in its methods of economy, personal, religious and cultural life, England had grown to be a nation of striking economic dichotomies. On one end of the social scale, the wealthy lived large, without care for the excesses of their time. At the other end of the scale were the poor commoners. In Moore's England, there was very little middle class. Moore's Utopia was written with a model society which did not know the stark contrasts between the rich and poor. Moore blends a variety of philosophical influences in order to arrive at the picture of a social order which was harmonious, and beneficial to all members. Moore's society was a communistic democracy that functioned to the benefit of all its members, and not an aristocracy Like Britain's existing government.
The values, and morals of Moore's Utopia reflected the desires of the common man in England at the time of his writing, and the response of a socially conscious writer who wanted to see the inequities erased. In Moore's Utopia, every man and women mastered one craft and was also a farmer. A person spent only six hours working each day, which left a larger amount of spare time which could be applied to useful pursuits such as reading and attending lectures. Moore's Utopians believed freedom and cultivation of the mind is the good life, where happiness lies.
Accordingly, scholars were exempted from work devote themselves to learning. Citizens select the members of this pseudo-elite group, and from it citizens also determine the nominees for city positions of political leadership. Each community shared resources among its citizens and with other cities. In a mirror image of Marx's communist dreams, all produce was distributed according to need without the exchange of money, and each city also kept a surplus, often shared with neighboring communities in need. Public health care was available and the Utopians regarded medicine as one of the most beautiful and useful philosophies. What Moore failed to consider is why citizens would work to contribute to the well-being of others without the hope of monetary reward, or profit, in essence, without receiving the means to a better life for themselves.
On the other hand, Francis Bacon's Utopia, which was written some 100 years later, was not a product of social commentary, but rather a hopeful look forward to the possible outcome of the age of enlightenment which was spreading its influence across the European continent. Where Moore based his utopia on a political system which centered on social justice and equal sharing of goods to all men, Bacon built his utopia on three cornerstones of his century which were promised to usher in greater societal prosperity and peace.
The first images greeting the reader on Bacon's work is deeply religious symbolism. Bacon's utopia has a strong and saturating commitment to religious life within its people. The primary emphasis of this in Bacon's work is shown in the first conversation which the explorers have with the member of the utopian society. The travelers first find a sign with religious symbolism, and then when approached by a person, Bacon writes this of he first encounter.
And thereupon the man, whom I before described, stood up, and with a loud voice in Spanish asked, "Are ye Christians?" We answered, "We were;" fearing the less, because of the cross we had seen in the subscription. At which answer the said person lift up his right hand toward heaven, and drew it softly to his mouth (which is the gesture they use, when they thank God),"
The second cornerstone of the economic and social prosperity which Bacon's society enjoys is the widespread success of ocean bearing trade. The people have an elaborate system which keeps members at sea, seeking to trade and bring home treasures. At the time of Bacon's writing, ocean going trade was the source of a nation's ability to build wealth. The new world and been discovered, and by the mid-1600's, ships were traveling back and forth between England and the America's carrying gold, agricultural goods, and mountains of rare treasures which had never been seen in England. The increasing power of the ocean going vessels to find seemingly unending treasures through merchant voyages was extended into Bacon's utopia. If small companies could increase wealth for small groups of people, then in his island nation, the entire nation could increase their wealth by a full commitment to the same.
The third cornerstone in Bacon's utopia is the nation's extensive involvement in making progress through the scientific community, and expanding their knowledge thorough scientific research. While the other two are assumed components of the social order, the commitment to the scientific method, and industry which arose thorough the pursuit of scientific research seems to be at the core of Bacon's work. When the travelers in Bacon's story are finished describing the society, and they sit down to spend time with the leader of the city, they are told the following:
Son, to make you know the true state of Salomon's House, I will keep this order. First, I will set forth unto you the end of our foundation. Secondly, the preparations and instruments we have for our works. Thirdly, the several employments and functions whereto our fellows are assigned. And fourthly, the ordinances and rites which we observe.
The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
The preparations and instruments are these: We have large and deep caves of several depths; the deepest are sunk 600 fathoms; and some of them are digged and made under great hills and mountains; so that if you reckon together the depth of the hill and the depth of the cave, they are, some of them, above three miles deep. For we find that the depth of a hill and the depth of a cave from the flat are the same thing; both remote alike from the sun and heaven's beams, and from the open air. These caves we call the lower region. And we use them for all coagulations, indurations, refrigerations, and conservations of bodies. We use them likewise for the imitation of natural mines and the producing also of new artificial metals, by compositions and materials which we use and lay there for many years. We use them also sometimes (which may seem strange) for curing of some diseases, and for prolongation of life, in some hermits that choose to live there, well accommodated of all things necessary, and indeed live very long; by whom also we learn many things."
It is clear from this exposition on the foundation of the community's strengths and successes that Bacon believed that a utopian society could be built from a religious community which spent their efforts increasing the amount of religious devotion among its people, spent its economic energy trading abroad, and spent its industry on the creation of scientific knowledge.
Interesting to note also that a key to Bacon's society was the ability of the people to overcome death, and thereby continue to amass knowledge through the work of the 'hermits' who chose to live in the caves where the scientific research was undertaken. These 'hermits' became the depositories of knowledge for the community. Since they did not die, they were able to continue to amass wisdom and knowledge. Since the community did know loose their accumulated knowledge, the community also benefited.
Many types of economic structures have been established in attempts to build a utopian structure. Democracy stands for the largest population as a fair means of governing, because every person has a voice in the process of living. Socialist governments assume that in a democracy, the selfishness of the people gets in the way of truly achieving a balance of social and economic equilibrium. In a democracy, the socialists insist, there is always a group of 'haves' and another of 'have nots' which create the economic disparity which Moore wrote against. The differences between the people causes lack of fairness, lack of opportunity, and thereby lack of utopian peace. The socialist solution is for a group, or governing board…[continue]
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