Social Aspects of Industry: A Survey of Labor Problems and Causes of Industrial Unrest

By S. Howard Patterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
INDUSTRIAL AND SOCIAL PROGRESS

THE PROBLEM OF ADJUSTMENT

1. Economic Utopias and Panaceas . -- One of the earliest and most famous of all Utopian schemes was Plato's "Republic," in which he pictured an ideal city state. It was communistic and cooperative and based on a very interesting division of labor. Toward the close of the Middle Ages, William Langlan wrote his "Vision of Piers Ploughman", an idealization of the England of his day in which many existing wrongs were righted. One of the greatest of all Utopias, and the one which has given its name to all similar plans, was the "Utopia" of Sir Thomas More. It appeared about 1516 and sharply criticized many of the evils of Tudor England. In More "Utopia" there were no dynastic wars, no leisure class, and no unemployment. The city beautiful contained public schools, free hospitals, and reformatories for criminals. A little later Francis Bacon published the "New Atlantis", in which his temple of science was a distinguishing feature. In it were the statues of men of science, inventors, and discoverers, rather than men of war. Among the more recent Utopias are Bellamy "Looking Backward" and William Morris "News from Nowhere".

Each age has dreamed its own Utopia, but has failed to reach it. Nevertheless, the ideals of one age have often become the normal conditions of a later period. A chronological survey of Utopias will show both a raising of ideals and a progression toward former ideals. The advance in the ideals themselves is as significant as the progress toward former ideals. Social unrest, as reflected in the formulation of ideals into fantastic Utopias, is a sign of progress rather than an indication of the decadence of the times. Stagnation is the fate of those lands whose old men no longer see visions and whose young men are unable to dream dreams.

A progressive society is a critical society and one which is characterized by advancing ideals of social justice. Discouragement may be due to the fact that social ideals are advancing as rapidly as social development toward these ideals. Social unrest will always exist in a progressive society, but an unprogressive society will suffer from maladjustments of which it is not conscious. Self-satisfaction is as characteristic of a static society as of a hopeless individual.

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