Thomas More’s Utopia as a Social Model In his famous work Utopia, Sir Thomas More describes the society and culture of an imaginary island on which all social ills have been cured. As in Plato’s Republic, a work from which More drew while writing Utopia, More’s work presents his ideas through a dialogue between two characters, Raphael Hythloday and More himself. Hythloday is a fictional character who describes his recent voyage to the paradisal island of Utopia. Throughout the work, Hythloday describes the laws, customs, system of government, and way of life that exist in Utopia to an incredulous and somewhat condescending More.
Throughout the work, Hythloday presents a society organized to overcome the flaws of human nature. This society has been carefully thought out by More — as the author of the work — to help avoid the problems associated with human nature. Individual human appetites are controlled and balanced against the needs of the community as a whole. In other words, More attempts to describe a society in which the seven deadly sins are counterbalanced by other motivations set up by the government and society as a whole.
More seems to think that the seven deadly sins will be fairly easy to overcome. Pride, for instance, is counterbalanced in several ways in his social system. For instance, he makes sure that all people wear the same clothing, except that the different genders wear different styles, as do married and unmarried people. More also makes individuals fairly interchangeable within the social system — one carpenter, for instance, seems to be more or less like another to him, and can find work anywhere that carpenters are needed. He also says that the Utopians encourage their ci…
…en consumed by lust for power due to the way in which he was raised, others in his society would have been. No society can control the motivations of all individuals involved to such a degree as to completely eliminate power-lust in all of its members.
More’s Utopia, then, presents a nice theory, but one too abstract, too Platonic, too rationalistic, and with too little understanding of real human motivations to be workable. However, it is hardly a useless or worthless work — it contains many profound psychological insights, quite a bit of humor, and many very good points. I doubt that it is workable as a complete social system, however.
More, Sir Thomas. Utopia. New York: Washington Square Press, 1965.
Marlowe, Christopher. The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus. Ed. Louis B. Wright. New York: Washington Square Press, 1959.