Utopia is a work of fiction and socio-political satire by Thomas More, written in Latin and published in 1516. The book is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs.
Who is Thomas More? Thomas More was an English statesman, lawyer, social philosopher, author and a Renaissance humanist. He was born in 1478 and died in 1535 after being executed. He influenced humanism through his authorship, history and moral philosophy. He served as a Member of Parliament and Undersheriff of London in his public life. He also served as Henry VIII secretary in 1529, and later in 1529, he became Lord Chancellor. What was Thomas More known for? He is known for his exceptional 1516 book called Utopia as well as his untimely death after being executed for treason in 1535 (Wood, n.d.). Utopia is one of his key writings, whereby he tries to provide a practical response to the 15th and 16th centuries crisis by cautiously describing an ideal republic.
Why did More publish Utopia? In Utopia, More focused on advocating for solutions to political issues based on idealism. In book one, he criticized England’s social injustices. He claimed that public life could not be improved without eliminating the social illness present in society. He criticizes England as being a sick society due to the gambling practices, maintaining a wasteful army and land seizing (Wood, n.d.). He further claims that these ills create a subjugated people; meaning that our society creates thieves then punish the thieves for stealing. Do you think the social injustices in our society creates a subjugated people? According to Thomas More, he believes that we are a self-made society. The social injustices in our society define who we are and our characters.
In book two, More visualizes and describes an ideal perfect society (Utopia). He has based his narrative on four principles. The first principle for an ideal society is to eliminate private property. This is to mean that all properties will be owned by society at large. Unlike in the real society whereby everyone looks out at the interest of themselves due to the fear of starving, in Utopia, the property is publicly owned, and resources shared equally among all people. So there are no social classes in the ideal society as all people are equal. The second principle is universal labour, whereby work is shared amongst everyone (Wood, n.d.). Everyone has to work under communal labour even when you visit another place you have to work. Idleness is not tolerated. In Utopia, it is focused on creating a classless society instead of a society whereby many people work to sustain life for a few people. In Utopia, labour acts as a tool for social cohesion and control. More seeks to instil control measures in society. In the ideal community, anyone who leaves the place of work without asking for permission will be punished. To eat, the individual has to work. This principle of the ideal society draws further curiosity. Is it possible to eliminate private ownership of property and publicly own them? How will the economy balance without social classes? Do you think that communal labour can be practical in real society?
The third principle of the ideal society is moderated pleasure. This is centred on making people’s lives happy by moderating pleasure. This focusses on moderating one’s pleasure in order to be happy and also avoids to limit other people’s pleasure. The concept of pleasure pursued in this ideal society is that one gives up his own pleasure for the sake of another. In this society, giving up one’s pleasure for another is considered the best pleasure (Wood, n.d.). The bid question is, in our real society, would you give up your pleasure for another? Essentially, pleasure is intrinsic and self-fulfilling. Do you think More is sincere by saying that the best pleasure is when on gives up his pleasure for the sake of another person? If not, how would you best describe pleasure, or how would you desire pleasure? The fourth principle is family acting as a microcosm of the state. In the ideal society, the family does not follow the biological lineage but instead organized according to the states’ needs. People are classified according to their ambitions. Suppose one wants to be a carpenter, he will be shifted to a family of carpenters. Do you think people will give up their family to pursue their ambitions by moving to another family that shares the same ambitions as theirs?
To sum it all, Utopia is an ideal society defined by More like a perfect place. A society free from social injustices. This is a society that exists beyond our real society. A society that More believes that it will fix our social issues. The characteristics are of this ideal society is very appealing that one would wish to go there. But, it still remains controversy about whether this type of a perfect society is realistic. Will such an ideal society ever come to existence? If it will, it will be a better place to live in.