Friday, July 17, 2009

Utopia (1). Sir Thomas More.

1516. Trans. Peter K. Marshall. New York: Washington Square Press. 1965.

Why read it? Sir Thomas More wrote his fictional account of Utopia to demonstrate that the cure for all social evil—poverty, oppression, violence, cruelty, exploitation—is in abolishing private property. Eliminate private property, he said, and you eliminate social subordination and all of the evils that accompany it. And he describes Utopia as a place where private property has been eliminated.

Sample ideas and quotes:

“Sixteenth-century society to a sensitive observer presented shocking contrasts between the driving greed and luxury of the rich and the misery and oppression of the poor.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. viii.

“As the name ‘humanism’ implies, the central reason for humanist activity was a passionate concern with the human condition a passionate dedication to the improvement of human life and to the emancipation of man.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. viii.

“At the dawn of the modern world, social science made its appearance in England not as the designated discipline of pedants seeking knowledge for its own sake but…for the elevation and emancipation of mankind, for the eradication of cruelty, exploitation, and illiteracy.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. viii.

“…a monarch’s main concern ought to be the welfare of his subjects.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. ix.

“Sir Thomas More proclaimed the equality of the sexes, at least insofar as education was concerned, in a society where woman was allotted a subordinate role.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. x.

“Utopia was written in Latin and addressed…to a limited circle of scholars, clerks and statesmen.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xii.

“Leisure is distinguished from idleness; the Utopians have a passion for learning and self-improvement, and they believe that leisure must be used for the cultivation of the mind.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xv.

“It was…Sir Thomas More’s greatness to grasp the causal connection between the institution of private property and the poverty, violence and oppression to which humanity was subjected.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xvii.

Father Surtz: “The ideal Christian Utopia must wait until men become ideal Christians.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xxii.

“Sir Thomas More is saying that private property in any form establishes the roots and the foundation of pride, acquisitiveness and the destruction of human brotherhood; abolish private property, he says, and you eliminate the fundamental condition that generates pride and its various forms in violence, hatred, injustice, oppression and war.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xxiii.

“Looking about them, the humanists saw a society dominated by the fever of private acquisition, a society in which men…were divided into rulers and ruled, oppressors and oppressed, rich and poor.” Introd. John Anthony Scott. p. xxv.

To be continued.

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