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Searching for Utopia

After the French Revolution many men began a search for a utopian society, one which would allow justice and happiness for all who resided there. It was not only a search for these men, but a lifelong goal, for if such a place created many of life’s problems would disappear. In order to make this vision come to life, the principles and laws that would create such a society must be understood. It was men such as Saint-Simon, Fourier, Jefferson, Owen, Bentham, Malthus and Ricardo who sought to create and identify with the factors which would allow for this utopian vision to become a reality.

For Saint-Simon the perfect utopia would have scientists at the top of the political structure, along with the industrialists and artists. His reasoning for this seemingly odd political structure was that it was not only important to fill the emotional needs of the people, it was also important to keep reason alive in both the minds of the people and those who govern them. He put these ideas into words in his book, Nouveau Christianne, which stated that a society organized by science must be balanced by the Brotherhood of Man.

His doctrine was later turned into a religion by his followers. Even though many of his writings may seem extremely unrealistic, several of them were prophetic in nature. Not only did he predict future events, he also influenced many great minds of the nineteenth century, making him an important figure of his time. Another eccentric who was seeking his own type of utopia was Francois Marie Fourier. Although several of Fourier’s views were influenced by the same trends as Saint-Simons’ his ideas were significantly different, for Fourier saw no use in scientists of progress.

Instead, Fourier wanted to liberate human nature. He determined that it was man’s passions which made them happy and the inhibition of their passions which had the opposite effect. His answer to this idea was to create a society in which men and women could indulge in their passions in a safe and harmonious way. In order to achieve this type of utopian society, instead of having cities, Fourier devised his idea of the perfect town, called phalansteres. These rural units would have a population of one thousand six hundred and twenty.

He based this figure on his personal classification into eight hundred and ten types. Each passion was to be represented by a male and a female, accounting for the population size. He figured that all would be merged together in harmony through their diversity. Although it may seem strange in this sort of society, Fourier proposed that there would be no economic equality; everyone in this society would come together to satisfy their passions. To date, many of Fourier’s ideas have become accepted in today’s society as a social norm.

Thomas Jefferson is possibly the most famous man among these philosophers, not only for his enlightening philosophy, but instead for his part in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and his time spent as president of the United States. His attributes were great and his ideals and hopes represented his time and place in the best sense. His words had a universal impact, reflecting his infinite wisdom and goodness. He wrote that “all men are created equal” and that there are certain rights which are available to all men.

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are words written by this man which will remain an integral part of universal society for centuries to come. Jefferson also held the belief that people had the right to overthrow a government if it is unjust and denying them their rights as citizens. Change and renewal were also prominent beliefs held by Jefferson, placing a great deal of emphasis of the connection of democracy with education. He had a preference for a rural over an urban civilization with a maximum of self government.

Jefferson’s insights and ideals helped build the foundation for the most influential democracy in the world and his ideas carried from democracy to democracy and have lasted for over two centuries. Owen was a different type of man for the time period in which he lived. He began his career as a worker in the local cotton mill, and by the age of just twenty-three, he had worked his way up to owning his own extremely profitable cotton mill. One of the main things that set Owen apart from other men was that he did not regard his workers as feeble and petty people who he could use to make money off of.

Instead he saw them as for what they were, real people with real needs. So he built a model industrial community, complete with decent housing for the workers, schools, sanitation and non-profit making stores. In his factories the working conditions were considered humane by eighteenth century standards. Owen in said to be the founder of co- operative socialism, which he put into practice when in 1825 he established a socialist community called New Harmony in India. This particular project failed but his ideas have and will live on.

Bentham is mainly known for his belief utilitarianism-the greatest good is the greatest good for the greatest number-even though this idea did not originate with him. Bentham began his career as a lawyer, but gave it up to devote his life to improve humanity. For fifteen years he great effort towards prison reform, which resulted in a brilliant book titled Principles of Morals and Politics. As a result of his travels and effort, he became convinced that happiness could be measured mathematically through a number of qualities such as intensity and duration.

This is where his theory of utilitarianism comes into play. It his belief that moral value is a function of the quality and quantity of pleasure. When put into this context, usefulness and goodness are one and the same, justifying even the simple things we enjoy in life. Malthus had almost the exact opposite belief of Bentham. In his published work Essay on Population, he writes about his theory of mathematical laws influencing human affairs. He applied these laws to the pro-creative process and came up with some depressing results.

The way Malthus figured it, population increased at a geometrical ratio and food at an arithmetical ratio. What this meant is the gap between the food supply and the number of people would increase at an accelerating pace with devastating results. Although, not everything in his theory was that glum. He noted that there were positive checks in population to keep it from exploding. Some of these positive checks include war, famine and plague. Unfortunately, for those who believed in his theory, by 1803 Malthus had come to the conclusion that the problem could never be solved, but that it could be kept in bounds.

In order to do this Malthus declared that the poor must remain poor. Instead of giving them charity, we don’t give them anything and just let nature take it’s course. He reasoned that if we were to give them food or raise their wages then they will end up creating more offspring, who will also end up poor and needing assistance. It is because of this cycle that Malthus came up with his own idea, one which is the exact opposite of Bentham; to deny the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.

Malthus himself did not preach the effects and benefits of birth control, which would have seemed to be the humane way of doing things, perhaps because he himself had fourteen children. David Ricardo was an English Jew who made his fortune at a young age and then devoted the rest of his life to the study of economic theory. His ideas and contributions were both numerous and significant. Economics from both classic and Marxist societies rest upon its foundations. He formulated the “Iron Law of Wages” which specified that wages cannot rise above the minimum amount required for substinence.

His theories were never truly recognized until later in the century when they made a powerful impact on the economics of Europe. Saint-Simon, Fourier, Jefferson, Owen, Malthus, Bentham and Ricardo were all men who contributed to society through their thoughts and theories that they presented. All had society’s best interests in mind when coming up with their utopian dreams. All felt that society must be arranged and regulated is some way in order to achieve a society in which all could live happy and comfortable lives.

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