A vivid collective biography of groupings of 19 th-century freethinkers is crammed with hopeful perceptions from the past
Last year, believe it or not, was its first year of Utopia. A perfect culture: happy, prosperous, accept, peaceful this idyll was widely celebrated, although its site, appropriately, was nowhere( from the Greek < em> ou-topos : U-topia ). The moment was the 500 th anniversary of Thomas Mores Utopia , a splendid little work( in Mores texts) that, over the centuries, has seen repetitions in innumerable dreamings and schemes, especially on the left.
Socialism has always concealed utopian visionaries, although they have not always been welcome there. From the villages of universal harmonization sponsored by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon and their early 19 th-century adherents( rejected by Marx and Engels as purely utopian ); to the libertarian-communist Edens of William Morris, Edward Carpenter and other fin de sicle New Lifers; to the free-loving, free-living arcadias of 1960 s radicals, utopianism has been alternately espoused and refuted by the left. The scope of progressive aspirations has widened and narrowed with changing periods. Today, in a climate of ascendant neoliberalism and far-right populism, the aspirations have dwindled to the point where even the modest social-democratic desires of Jeremy Corbyn and his adherents are slated as cranky utopian fantasizes by their Labour party detractors.
All socialist utopias involve some refashioning of gender relations. This has been true-blue from the start. Between 1825 and 1845, Britains firstly socialists the Owenites, after the capitalist-turned-communist Owen grew a root-and-branch criticism of womens abuse along with strategies to eradicate it, ranging from practical step such as reform of the union the regulations and the coming into effect of birth control, to the creation of communities where private property would be abolished, childcare collectivised and nuclear households replaced by cooperative family organisations. With these changes, the Owenites promised, women, wedded or single, is increasingly becoming humen social equates; no female, with or without progenies, would need a humankind in order to survive. Or, as one female told a progressive satisfy in 1840: When all should labour for each, and each “re supposed to” exertion for the whole, then would female be placed in a position in which she would not sell her autonomies and her finest feelings.