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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Robert Owen and utopian socialism


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, William Henry Brooke


Robert Owen (1771-1858) was an influential economist best known for his support for utopian socialism and cooperatives. Philosopher Michael Oakeshott said,


"The modern history of Europe is littered with the projects of the politics of Rationalism. The most sublime of these is, perhaps, that of Robert Owen for 'a world convention to emancipate the human race from ignorance, poverty, division, sin and misery' - so sublime that even a Rationalist (but without much justification) might think it eccentric." (Rationalism in Politics, 1947)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Owen.


Health of society


"What ideas individuals may attach to the term 'Millennium' I know not; but I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal." (Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1816)


"The advantage of pure, and the disadvantage of impure air are experienced each time we breathe, and all who understand the causes of disease know that an impure atmosphere is most unfavourable to the enjoyment of health, and an efficient cause to shorten human existence within the natural life of man. It is therefore most desirable that decisive measures should be devised and generally adopted to ensure to all a pure atmosphere, in which to live during their lives." (The Book of the New Moral World, 1836)


" is particularly recommended, as a means of uniting the inhabitants of the village into one family, that while each faithfully adheres to the principles which he most approves, at the same time all shall think charitably of their neighbours respecting their religious opinions, and not presumptuously suppose that theirs alone are right." (Rules and Regulations for the Inhabitants of New Lanark, 1800)




"Train any population rationally, and they will be rational. Furnish honest and useful employments to those so trained, and such employments they will greatly prefer to dishonest or injurious occupations. It is beyond all calculation the interest of every government to provide that training and that employment; and to provide both is easily practicable." (A New View of Society, 1813)


"Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building, in which formality predominates... But in the nursery, play-ground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and class-rooms." (The Book of the New Moral World, 1836)