By: Aki A.
Today I went to a town called “New Harmony” in Indiana in order to understand more knowledge about utopian communities. The settlement was first founded by the Harmony society under the leadership of a group of German in Indiana, they named this settlement “Harmony” in 1804.1Then in 1815, the town was moved to a land along Wabash River and was renamed as “New Harmony”. In 1825 The property of New Harmony was sold to Robert Owen, a man who was born in Montgomeryshire, Wales.2 As I notice that, socialism’s core value is very different from our communities’ core value.
Socialism’s economic and social systems are characterized by social ownership. As one of the socialist has explained, “Social ownership may refer to collective, public or cooperative ownership; to citizen ownership of equity; or to any combination of these”.3 There are variable forms of socialism such as, market socialism, non-market socialism and democratic socialism.4 Recently, the socialist Karl Marx has introduced another term, “Utopian socialism” and the book The Communist Manifesto which is written by Mr Max is about to be published either. Before Mr Max, the thinkers who are identified as utopian socialist may not think the word utopian to refer their ideas. Mr Max and his friend Mr Engles are the first thinkers to use utopian to refer their ideas, because Mr Max believes, “All socialist ideas that simply presented a vision and distant goal of an ethically just society as utopian”.5 The goal of the utopian society is to build a community with equality. All the people in the community are in the same social class; they have the same amount of properties; everyone has to work with each other, but the work time will decrease and productionns will increase. Since everyone in the community is the same, so there’s no comparison required. As a result, there will be no theft and no violence in the society which will be an ideal and perfect society.6 Is this the community Mr Robert Owen is trying to build? In order to notice more about Mr Owen’s thought about this Utopian socialism, Mr Owen has been interviewed.
“What was the motivation for Mr Owen to build such a community and what did this ideal community should look like?” To answer these questions, “In my opinion, since humans were entirely responsible for their own acts, they should be sanctioned accordingly. All societies have to be reformed with a uniform set of rural or urban communities, in order to create a community without any competition. People in this unified community will cooperate with each other”.7 When asking about what was Mr Owen’s thought on the way factories worked, he said, “Well, for me, the abolition of the false division of labor between worker and capitalist was also necessary. Mechanization of work did not need the division of labor to be productive; it needed modern machinery without the division of labor”.8 To answer the question, “Do you think the work time is too long or to short time for workers?”, Mr Owen replied, “I think it is necessary for the community to decline the work time since everyone in the community will get the same amount of work, the community will produce far more products than our people need. I also believe, the society should be structured according to age”.9 Mr Owen had also mentioned that around 1800, he had visited a community that was managed based on justice and kindness at New Lanark. He was affected by the way the community worked. So after ten years, he had a business with 2000 workers in order to eradicate theft among this employees, he offered them sensible standards of living condition, and some educations. He had shortened the work hour to 8 hours per day. He also provided medical care, sick funds and public eating facilities. He was looking forward to creating a moral, humane, kind, active and educated workforce.“ 10 Do you identified yourself as as an Utopian Socialist? What’s your thought about the new term that Mr Karl Max has mentioned?” “I haven’t ever thought about that term, but according to the definition Mr Karl Max has made, I would say yes. Because the Owenite community and the Utopian has the same goal.”
After the interview and that was in the afternoon Mr Owen allowed me to have a tour in the small town alone. As Mr Owen described, I saw most of the people in the town work in the same place but I still saw some people that didn’t go to work. I asked one of the worker in the factory, “Do you like the way Mr Owen manage the community?” he answered with a certain answer, “Yes.” he continued “but it is impossible for a small amount of population to make producing a larger amount of productions. Plus, not everyone in the community come to work even it is only eight hours per day.”11Then I interviewed another worker here and asked, “which working system you prefer? The current one or working individually?”, he declaimed, “I like the idea of this community, but I don’t think this system works well. When producing food, not every comes to work since they know even they don’t work, they will still get some productions. This phenomenon caused the lack of food productions, I can get more food if I work individually back in the farm.11 As a result, people that works hard in the factory will feel unfair and this feeling will make them work less harder.”
Before I went back, Mr Owen has told me that, “New Harmony is still in progress.” Through this trip to New Harmony, I learnt a plenty of new knowledges in about the Utopian socialism. The Utopian society is an ideal community that without any bad behaviors we had seen in our communities, such as, theft, fight and comparison. All the people are completely equal in this community, there is no poverty and hunger. However, this kind of community for me is mostly unachievable and in fact, the Owenite community in New Harmony didn’t work well. The tour I had taken in the afternoon, showed me some reasons why it didn’t work. There were always some people impeded the whole community to become a perfect community with there bad human natures, such as idleness, fury and selfishness. Nevertheless, if a community take spend a long time to change or eliminate those disharmony in the small society, for hundreds or even thousands of year, it isn’t impossible to achieve the goal of an Utopian community.
1. Trahair, Richard C. S. Utopias and utopians: an historical dictionary. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999.
2. Ibid., 169
3. O’Hara, Phillip Anthony. Encyclopedia of political economy. L-Z. London: Routledge, 2001.
4. Kolb, Robert W. Encyclopedia of business ethics and society. Los Angeles: Sage, 2008.
5. Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
7. Ibid., 304
8. Ibid., 305
11. Donnachie, Ian. Robert Owen: social visionary. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2005.