Politics in Thomas More’s Utopia
The question posed in this essay concerns the politics in the book of Thomas More – Utopia. The book is a precursor of the utopian literary genre that describes in detail ideal societies and perfectly arranged cities. Although utopianism is typical Renaissance movement, which combines classical concepts of ideal societies of Plato and Aristotle with Romanesque rhetorical finesse (Cicero, Kvintiliyan), it continues to develop in the age of the Enlightenment as well. Moreover, the author criticizes the social mores of his time. To today’s system he opposes the island “Utopia” where there is no private property. Earth and all means of production belong to the state, which is a federation of cities. All people are busy with work. From physical labor are exempt only those persons possessing exceptional mental ability and dealing with scientific work. Thus, the essay has a lot to say and a lot to deal with – from politics to pure utopia.
I chose this subject, because for me this is one of the most interesting books I've ever read in terms of social and humanistic commitment. The book struck me with clearly set out ideas, pure vision of author of how to settle down to the smallest detail a society of equal people, and with the deeply noble and humanistic thought of the writer, whose goal is to help all the tortured humanity. Of course, this book will appeal only to idealistic people who never stop believing that the world can become a better place.
Politics in Thomas More’s Utopia
The appearance of the book "Utopia" is of great importance for the late medieval man. In fact this book is one of the main cornerstones of the literary Renaissance. More has witnessed the flaws of the feudal system, of institutions like the church and the palace. The society steeped in social deprivation, ignorance, lawlessness. His book is an attempt to draw a bright ray of hope in the medieval social paradigm. This literary work for better or for worse became the basis of socialist ideas and trends that have developed in the 19th century or three centuries later. Interestingly, the contemporaries of the book hardly have imagined what great impact his idea will have in the future.
"Utopia" is a huge revolution in human consciousness and thought. Thousands of years of history know the injustice of the stronger to the weaker and the deprivation of the poor and the unlearned. This is a story of the struggle between good and evil where you can say that for the last two millennia evil prevailed in our world and is on the top of the human guiding morality in all leading modern societies around the world from past to the present day.
I dare say that "Utopia" is one of the most significant social and humanistic works in the history of literary thought. Over the years, the book was subject to a number of interpretations and has aroused strong controversy in the following matters:
- The described in her social system is absolutely impossible to be implemented;
- It reflected the views of fanatical religious ascetic, dreaming to achieve and to impose of all people on Earth "heaven morality";
- In it is virtually grounded and justified the slave system and the monarchy;
- It reflected an ironic joke and a fantasy, created exclusively for fun on the basis of which cannot be made an adequate conclusion about the author's views;
- it is a justified totalitarian regime and described as "ideal" state system, closely resembling the aggressive and even racist and Nazi character, remarkably reminiscent of Hitler in Germany;
- In it is reflected the casuistry of the modern cold war, justified is the superiority of one people over another, grounded is the a conscious genocide and the picture of total war, so if Utopia is a paradise for its own residents, it is a hell for the other nations;
- it reflected the view of "apostolic communism", the ideal of which was Christian charity and the monastic community of property.
- it embodied the true socialist and communist ideals of humanity and it has inspired and taught Campanella, Uinstenli, Morelli and other socialists of XVII-XVIII century;
- it describes the political system characterized by its widest democracy, defending the principle of sovereignty of the people and the love of freedom of utopiytsite; in this system all management issues are decided by the people's elected representatives thereof, and the most important issues are solved straightforwardly by the people of the assembly of all citizens on the island; the democracy and fairness of the political system stems from the fact that public device is built on the complete absence of private property and labor is not a burden but an honorable duty of all citizens and all that is produced is distributed according to needs of everyone;
- In it is described the so-called "limited monarchy".
The described in the book of Thomas More ideal state organization is a kind of federation of 54 cities, headed by the Senate consisting of three representatives of each city with the tasks of entering the discussion of general affairs and in particular the reallocation of the products of the workforce and so on. In their characteristics that utopian state resembles the ancient polis - every city entering in the federation, accompanied by the adjoining countryside and the family is the basic unit of the state. The management of every city in this ideal state is entrusted to the National Assemblies that namely elected most of the officials and hear their statements.
In this ideal state, according to Thomas More, none of the employees in state institutions did show arrogance and inspires fear; they call them "fathers" and they behave with dignity and voluntarily honor them. The authorities in this country are not forcing anyone to perform unnecessary work; the working day is six hours and even less when the state has that type of opportunity. In this state hospitals are public, but nobody has to visit them by force; moreover, there are public inns, where food is abundant and gorgeous, and where most people prefer to eat because it is much more convenient for them than to eat at home.
According to Thomas More in this ideal state widely used measure is to encourage persons performing useful public works, all job functions and processes are performed by people voluntarily. In this country there is a wide tolerance and therefore it has many kinds of religions and sects in which it is completely prohibited the excitation of religious fanaticism and condemnation of the faith of others.
On the issue of law and the legal system in this country, Thomas More wrote that the laws are slightly few, since the state lacks privately owned and therefore disputes are extremely rare, and crimes are minimal, which is why people do not need extensive and complex legislation. Worth of interest is the situation under which this ideal state still has slaves. According to Kautski slavery in this ideal state exists as solving the problem of "implementation of filthy and disgusting work. " According to other authors, however, the genesis of the idea of T. Moore of the existence of slavery in this ideal state is quite another.
Thus, according to British historian A.L Morton the existence of slavery here is actually a solution to the issue of crime, and in particular for replacing the death penalty with a much more humane and beneficial to society punishment such as carrying out public useful work. At this point of view adheres the Russian researcher V.P. Volgin, who stresses that "utopian slaves" are actually people sentenced to forced community service.
What is more, the politics in “Utopia” bear the implicit beliefs of the age and are close as abovementioned to the so-called “heaven morality ”. That justified totalitarian regime reflects the casuistry of the modern cold war, justifies is the superiority of one people over another, grounds the conscious genocide and the picture of total war, so if Utopia is a paradise for its own residents, it is a hell for the other nations. At the same time it describes the political system characterized by its widest democracy, defending the principle of sovereignty of people and the love of freedom. Having in mind all of the above I might head to my final remarks.
In reality, notwithstanding the political theme, all the author, a man with a "bright mind" and "thirst for freedom", wants is to go outside of the conservative British society and to find out what makes the man happy. That is the reason why the utopian people are so concerned about the idea of happiness. “What good, if a person has spent his entire life without joy”, they argue. The Man "living utopia" is actually every man and society that by nature wants to fully achieve the impossible thing here and now - happiness.
1. McLean, Andrew M. Thomas More's Utopia as Dialogue and City Encomium.  See Dialogue, Dialectic and Drama.
2. Freeman, John. A Model Territory: Enclosure in More's Utopia. The Territorial Rights of Nations and Peoples. Ed. John R. Jacobson. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. 241–67. (Sum.: Geritz R144).
3. McClung, William A. Designing Utopia. Moreana 118/119 (1994): 9–28. [Sum.: p. 287; Geritz R263. On the problem of mapping Utopia and visualising Utopian architecture.]
4. Jones, Sarah Rees. Thomas More's Utopia and Medieval London. Pragmatic Utopias: Ideals and Communities, 1200–1630. Ed. Rosemary Horrox, Sarah Rees Jones, and Richard Barrie Dobson. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. 117–13;
5. Carpinelli, Francis. Pollutions Beyond the Walls — In More's London and in his Utopia. Moreana 51:197–198 (Dec. 2014): 83–113. [Sum.: pp.83–84.]
6. Goodey, Brian R. Mapping Utopia: A Comment on the Geography of Sir Thomas More. The Geographical Review 60 (1970): 15–30. [Sum.: Geritz R158; Wentworth 552.]
 McLean, Andrew M. Thomas More's Utopia as Dialogue and City Encomium.  See Dialogue, Dialectic and Drama.
 Freeman, John. A Model Territory: Enclosure in More's Utopia. The Territorial Rights of Nations and Peoples. Ed. John R. Jacobson. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. 241–67. [Sum.: Geritz R144
 McClung, William A. Designing Utopia. Moreana 118/119 (1994): 9–28. [Sum.: p. 287; Geritz R263. On the problem of mapping Utopia and visualising Utopian architecture.
 Jones, Sarah Rees. Thomas More's Utopia and Medieval London. Pragmatic Utopias: Ideals and Communities, 1200–1630. Ed. Rosemary Horrox, Sarah Rees Jones, and Richard Barrie Dobson. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. 117–13;
 Ribhegge, Wilhelm. Thomas More's Utopia: The Humanist View of City and Court in the Renaissance. Wolfenbütteler Renaissance Mitteilungen 29 (2005): 18–31;
 Carpinelli, Francis. Pollutions Beyond the Walls — In More's London and in his Utopia. Moreana 51:197–198 (Dec. 2014): 83–113. [Sum.: pp.83–84.]
 Goodey, Brian R. Mapping Utopia: A Comment on the Geography of Sir Thomas More. The Geographical Review 60 (1970): 15–30. [Sum.: Geritz R158; Wentworth 552.]
- Quote paper
- Silvia Stamenova (Author), 2016, The Politics of Thomas More's "Utopia", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/387035