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Victoria Moreau

on 10 March 2014

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Socialism based on a belief that social ownership of the means of production can be achieved by voluntary and peaceful surrender of their holdings by propertied group

Robert Owen (1771-1858) believed that the harshness of life under laissez-faire capitalism corrupted human nature. Owen exemplified the classical liberal belief that individuals could realize their potential if they were free to pursue their own inclinations. At 19, Owen opened his own business. In 1800, Owen became mill manager of the Chorton Twist Company in New Lanark, Scotland, the largest cotton-spinning business in Britain. He subsequently bought the business with several partners. Owen used the opportunity to put his beliefs into practice. New Lanark became a model community to demonstrate his Utopian principles. Believing education was the key to a humane society, Owen established the Institution for the Formation of Character which was basically a community education centre where infants were cared for while their parents worked, and children attended school until the age of 10 rather than 5 or 6. At age 10, they worked for 10 hours instead of 13 which still left them time to continue their education in the evening. Adult education was also available. The institution also sponsored free medical care, concerts and dancing. Owen improved living conditions, renovated houses for comfort rather than economy. Streets were paved and cleaned regularly. Company shops with reasonable prices replaced private high charging shops. The village was landscaped nicely to let citizens enjoy outdoor activities. Fines were imposed for disruptive social behaviours. Owen main interest was improving working conditions related to child labour and hours of work. He fostered a co-operative spirit between management and labour and introduced incentives to reward good employees.
Monday, February 17, 1880
Vol XCIII, No. 311
The problem with Utopian socialism is that it does not concern itself with how to get there, presuming that the power of its own vision is sufficient, or with who the agent of the struggle for socialism may be, and, instead of deriving its ideal from criticism of existing conditions, it plucks its vision readymade from the creator’s own mind. Over 40 versions of Utopia were published between 1700 and 1850.

Although this concept is appealing to the masses, the vision of a utopia is difficult to create.

Socialists agreed on the following beliefs and values:
- Private Ownership of the means of production permits exploitation.
-The state should direct the economy to achieve economic equality for all citizens
-Society should be classless

While sharing common views, socialists differed greatly in the methods they advocated their goal of transforming liberal capitalist society. The Utopians only wanted to modify classical liberalism, other socialist ideologies contemplated fundamental changes to society's structure.
Liberalism, a product of Enlightenment thinking, held the belief that human progress was inevitable. Liberalists believe that all individuals should be equal before the law, that they were basically good, but still capable of improvement. Liberalism placed an emphasis on representative government, and individual rights and freedoms.
It seems as though socialism was a reaction to classical liberalism, which, according to socialists, placed too much confidence in the individual. In particular, the Industrial Revolution confirmed the fact that competition was the cause of the country’s downfall.
Socialist individuals fundamentally believe that man’s natural state is not competitive; instead, human nature is the happiest amidst cooperation. In particular, Utopian socialism questioned the philosophes of the Enlightenment, and its devotion to a “highly mechanized, rational, and efficient human”. In addition, utopian socialist’s opposed private property, as society, not individuals should own the property. Also, central economic planning is favoured over a free market economy, resulting in all citizens roughly having the same level of prosperity. Lastly, utopian socialists embodied the concept of collectivism, believing that human beings are social by nature, and that individualism is venomous.

Robert Owen's community in New Lenark, Scotland
Morman Church founded in 1830 in Utah
The Shaker Movement started in England in 1747 (Lived by a basic set of tenets and didn't impose a lot of rules on citizens)
Thomas More writes the book Utopia in London in 1515.
Plato in 360 BCE
“New Australia” was created in the 1890s, when 500 Australian socialists led by William Lane went into the Paraguayan jungle to found a commune based on socialist principles
There is a strong sense in which The French Revolution was a Utopian experiment. The Decree establishing the Republican Calendar, beginning like Pol Pot from Year Zero and dividing the day into 10 hours, 1000 minutes, 100,000 seconds etc., gives a flavour of this utopianism. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men and The Social Contract (1762) provided the principles of Reason on which the constitution could be founded. The Terror which was the outcome of such a utopian project has been taken by many thinkers (Hegel, for example, in The Phenomenology of Spirit) as a warning against all forms of utopianism. Similar observations have been made about the Russian Revolution, but it would be more true to say that Utopianism is an element of every progressive social change and every revolution.
Plato was the first to write about utopian societies in 360 BCE. Utopian Socialism was adapted from such reformers as Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, utopian socialism drew from early communist and socialist ideas. Advocates included Louis Blanc, noted for his theory of worker-controlled “social workshops,” In the U.S. Utopian settlements were also attempted by religious groups such as the Mennonites, Shakers, and Mormons.

"Utopian Socialism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopian%2520socialism>.

The great wealth produced by industrialization in 19th century society was recognized by many as a wonderful achievement. What was lacking, however, was a fair and just distribution of wealth to all that contributed to it, especially the workers. The starting point for socialist ideologies was the reform of the political, social, and economic structures of the 19th century liberal society. Utopia refers to any imaginary, perfect world meant to serve as a model for real life. In the 19th century, Utopian socialism was applied to a school of socialist thought that emerged in opposition to classical liberalism. The Utopians were essentially humanitarians who advocated an end to the appalling conditions of the average worker in the industrial capitalist countries of the time. Idealistic rather than pragmatic, Utopian socialists did not intend to overturn the basic political, economic, and social systems. Robert Owen in the United States believed that education and improved working conditions could peacefully eradicate the worst aspects of capitalism and lead to an ideal socialist society where everyone would live happily.
http://marxisttheory.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/new_harmony_robert_owen.jpg -
"Utopian Socialism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopian%2520socialism>.

What makes it utopian socialists different from other socialists?
Certainly they shared the vision of a new community of producers bound together through fraternal solidarity. The hope that men will once again reestablish harmony between men, nature, and with themselves were shared by all the socialists. They all shared humanistic opposition to indifference and selfishness of "acquisitive individualism" so prevalent in that era. Even the economic and political implications of socialism, i.e. confiscation of the means of production and taking the power of government from the hands of capitalists were views shared by both the "socialists" and the "utopian socialist" (with the exception of Saint-Simon). They, however , differed in the way of carrying it out.
"UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS." UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <http://econc10.bu.edu/economic_systems/Theory/NonMarx_Socialism/Utopian_socialism/utopian_socialists.htm>.
Fielding, John. "Utopian Socialists." Perspectives on Ideology. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2009. 134-36. Print.
Fielding, John. "Utopian Socialists." Perspectives on Ideology. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2009. 134-36. Print.
"Utopian Socialism Archive." Utopian Socialism Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.marxists.org/subject/utopian/>.

"Utopian Movements." About.com American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://americanhistory.about.com/od/19thcentur1/tp/Utopian-Movements.htm>.
"Http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism." Responses to Liberalism. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. <http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism>.

Fielding, John. "Utopian Socialists." Perspectives on Ideology. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2009. 134-36. Print.

http://theredphoenix.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/utopia-ortelius.jpg -
"Http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism." Responses to Liberalism. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. <http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism>.

"Utopian Socialism Archive." Utopian Socialism Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.marxists.org/subject/utopian/>.

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/rob/large/nwm_rob_65_01f_large.jpg -
"Http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism." Responses to Liberalism. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. <http://responsestoliberalism-period2.wikispaces.com/Utopian+Socialism#Concerns with Utopian Socialism>.

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