The Socialism of Our Times: A Symposium

By Harry W. Laidler; Norman Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
A VERY PRIVATE UTOPIA

By STUART CHASE*

LEWIS Mumford in the Golden Day has given us a brilliant review of American culture as reflected in American literature from Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey. It is on the whole an exceedingly critical review. He tells us frequently, passionately, and beautifully, what he is against, but only rarely does he let it be known what he is for. Modern industrial civilization has nourished a great array of critics. Few of them are as competent or as penetrating as Mr. Mumford, but all of them--save possibly the utopians--follow his general method. They are indefatigable in pointing out the shortcomings of society, but they are vague as to the precise nature of available substitutes. They seldom define their standards. Yet standards they must have; otherwise it would be impossible to criticize. They either take it for granted that the reader shares their inward knowledge, or else, and more probably, the standards have never been formulated in the critic's conscious processes at all. They have grown in the back of his mind, darkly.

From the artists, the dramatists, the socialists, the poets, the uplifters of all varieties, has poured forth in never-ending flood the challenge that homo sapiens is only half alive.

What does he look like when he is alive?

The question would seem to be a fair one, but it is seldom answered. The writers of utopia have struggled with it, but their canvases are usually so great that we are seldom able to see ourselves or our neighbors living or behaving in that world. There is a strange chill about all utopias; they are

____________________
*
Reprinted from the Nation by courtesy of the publisher and author.

-17-

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