When people here the word Utopia they immediately conclude it is a community or society possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities. The term has been used to describe communities that attempt to create that ideal society. It was Thomas More though through his book Utopia to fully describe how society functions in a capitalistic economy. In that book published in 1516 Thomas More describes a fictional island society somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike "Lord Of the Flies" this definitive book undertook the relationships of society with the capitalist economy of 15th century England. It underscored and showed the complex sides of the problems people possess that exist within a capitalist society.
Today, the United States could learn much from the works of Thomas More, for he really was a man way ahead of his times. In one paragraph alone Thomas More clearly illustrates the problems people have within a capitalist economy and the fault of that capitalist society itself. "Take a barren year of failed harvests, when many thousands of men have to be carried off by hunger. If at the end of the famine the barns of the rich were searched. I dare say positively enough grain would be found in them to have saved the lives of all those who died from starvation and disease, if it had been divided equally among them. Nobody really need have suffered from a bad harvest at all. So easily might men get the necessities of life if that cursed money, which is supposed to provide access to them, were not in fact the chief barrier to our getting what we need to live. Even the rich, I'm sure understand this. they must know that it is better to have enough of what we really need than an abundance of superfluities, much better to escape from our many present troubles than to be burdened with great masses of wealth. And, in fact I have no doubt that every man's perception of where his true interest lies along with the authority of Christ our Savior would long ago have brought the whole would to adopt Utopian laws, if it were not for on single monster, the prime plague and begetter of all others, I mean pride."
For one to fully realize the significance of this virtuous paragraph we have to first remember the time period in which it was written. And, yet today we are continually faced with repercussions of our capitalistic economy that clearly resembles what Thomas More described some 500 years ago. In his work More described both capitalism, socialism as well as both pertaining to communism. In correlation to various aspects of societies described whether it is capitalism, socialism and even communism all oppresses the people within it, controls their knowledge, and their way of life. It is clear that utopia is impossible to reach as long as human kind is confined to any institution. Sounding very familiar to life in the United States today? The difference between these societies is seen when one looks at where this oppression stems from. In 15th century England’s capitalist society was structured in such a way that it allows the people within it to oppress or be oppressed by each other. That is true today in England as well as the US or any other country whose base form of society is a capitalistic one.
In Utopia the oppression is derived from the people and not necessarily from the structure itself. Therefore, a capitalist societies’ structure allows more freedom for the people than the egalitarian society; thus, ironically, it is arguable to state that capitalism is more socialist than socialism. The problem of a capitalist society stems not from its’ structure so much but from the people within it. In contrast, the people of the socialist society are all equal; yet, what makes this possible is the structures’ control over the people. Both societies have strengths and weaknesses. But, until mankind can be re-socialized losing the terms power, greed, and pride from our conscious thoughts and actions, we will always be faced with oppression. Just look at the world around today.
Quite profound were the writings of Thomas More during the reign of Henry VIII. Yet, he pointed out very articulately the problems with society whether they are based on capitalism, socialism, or even communism. They all stem from the human experience. Today, with our capitalistic society that human experience is controlled by mankind's thirst for power, control and wealth. They are all derived from man's innate sense of pride. Whether we choose to accept the writings of Thomas More as a steadfast rule of thumb for a society based on capitalism or any other from of economic function one thing is perfectly clear is that a society like Americas that is based on a capitalistic economy has root problems already imbedded within. The imperfection of the human experience has rendered mankind pretty much incapable of ever establishing an utopia form of a society.
The only possibility for a society to evolve into an utopia state is if mankind already has the same structural freedoms of capitalism but rides itself of the individualistic compulsion of greed and wonton self absorption to attain more power, control and wealth. Unfortunately, today the world is governed by individuals many of whom continue to have the individualistic traits that prohibit a society from evolving or even coming close to an utopia state. For Thomas More though he understood the ramifications of the actions taken by the governing powers during a period in history that was ripe with individualistic traits that prohibited a society from ever evolving into a state of utopia.
If we are to learn anything from the writings of Thomas More it should be that he understood the complexities of the human experience and figured out that mankind through his imperfections could evolve society on to the path toward an utopia state. But, first man has to realize his imperfections and tries to correct the impulses that keeps a society from moving forward toward an utopia state. Truly, a lofty ambition for man to achieve. Today, in a world where man is constantly immersed in violent struggle for more power, control and wealth. Where the United States capitalistic economy continues to depress more of it's population. And, a world that seems to reward those who capitalize on the misfortunes of others mankind still has a very long way to go to even come close to reaching Utopia.