Elements of Socialism: A Text-Book

By John Spargo; George Louis Arner | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XVI
THE UTOPIAN SOCIALIST IDEAL

The ideal of perfection: In every age of civilization there have always been idealists who, realizing the imperfections and injustices of the world as it is, have endeavored to formulate their conceptions of the world as it ought to be. Mankind has always had a weakness for these beautiful pictures of a perfected world, and many of them have given rise to sects and societies working for the realization of the ideal. The picture drawn is usually nothing more than the literary expression of the author's dreams, without any intention of starting a movement or a revolution. Its influence in bringing about social changes depends upon the social and economic conditions existing at the time in the land of its origin. The Utopian ideal frequently merges imperceptibly into the concept of a future life beyond the grave, and in writings of a mystical type it is sometimes difficult to tell which is meant, the earthly paradise of the future or the paradise in which dwell the spirits of the blessed dead.

The Utopias present themselves to us in almost infinite variety and they form one of the most interesting chapters in the world's literature. It will be impossible for us to do more than notice briefly a few of the most important of these pictures and the movements which have followed them.

Ancient Utopias: One of the first definite pictures of ideal world is the Republic of Plato, one of the great masterpieces of literature. It is remarkable that even the great Athenian philosopher could not conceive of a society which was much more than the Athens he knew and loved with the more obvious defects removed. Communism still existed to a very large extent in Athens, but only within the limited cultured class. Beneath were the slaves, who far out

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