Industrialism and Utopia
THE L ATE NINETEENTH CENTURY WITNESSED MANY FORMS OF UTOPIAN NARrative. Fantastic novels by writers such as Bellamy and Morris are the most obvious examples of the desire to imagine new social arrangements that many in the period felt, but the utopian urge was also manifest in the many panegyrics to technology and corporate endeavor. Increasing economic centralization was described as the key to improved living conditions in utopian terms, and the leaders of these new economic institutions were often cast as heroes. The focus on the individual masked some of the contradictions inherent in this capitalist ideology, while the focus on material advances allowed supporters of corporate dominance to use the authority of science to bolster their own authority. At the same time, other writers were attempting to enlist the discourse of science to their own cause, including one prominent anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. In the end, anarchists came to symbolize a lost possibility for social organization, one usually rejected as inadequate or relatively powerless against the capitalist juggernaut.
Many groups had a stake in the debates over social and economic organization that raged throughout the late nineteenth century. Marxists, capitalists, socialists, progressives and others recognized that society was in a crucial period of self-definition, as evidenced by the popularity of utopias and other novels which dealt directly with social issues. As with most debates, it was not so much individual arguments that effected the greatest social change as it was the initial choice of language (and their associated narratives) that dominated that debate. Proponents of corporate capitalism were able to straddle the inherent contradictions between order and freedom in their own ideology through the construct of social Darwinism, modified to include a kind of hero worship of great capitalists as ones who were successful in this social competition. Many of the opponents of corporate capitalism accepted parts of this argument; even Socialists and Marxists, who opposed capitalism, were in favor