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Socialism I. More and “Utopian” Socialists. Overview. St. Thomas More Biographical background “Utopia” Structure Sharing the Wealth. Sir/Saint Thomas More. Thomas More (1478-1535) Born in London, father was a judge Attended Oxford and eventually got a law degree.

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Socialism I

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socialism i

Socialism I

More and “Utopian” Socialists

  • St. Thomas More
    • Biographical background
    • “Utopia”
      • Structure
      • Sharing the Wealth
sir saint thomas more
Sir/Saint Thomas More
  • Thomas More (1478-1535)
  • Born in London, father was a judge
  • Attended Oxford and eventually got a law degree
biographical background
Biographical Background
  • After getting law degree (ca. 1501), he has second thoughts and enters a monastery to study as monk (ca. 1502-1503)
  • Decides his duty to country requires him to turn to public life, and he becomes a member of Parliament (1504)
biographical background5
Biographical Background
  • One of his first efforts in Parliament was to push legislation to reduce the compensation given to the monarch, King Henry VII.
  • Henry responds by having More’s father jailed until he pays fine and resigns from Parliament, which he does
biographical background6
Biographical Background
  • Henry VII dies in 1509, More re-enters public life, this time as an under-sheriff in London (one of only 2 such positions at the time
  • Gets reputation as fair arbiter and compassionate defender of the city’s poor and downtrodden
biographical background7
Biographical Background
  • More’s rising reputation attracts the attention of the new king, Henry VIII
  • In 1515 he travels as part of a delegation to Flanders to settle a trade dispute
biographical background8
Biographical Background
  • Joins Henry’s inner circle of advisors (the Privy Counsel) in 1518
  • Knighted by the King in 1521, becoming Sir Thomas More
biographical background9
Biographical Background
  • Helps Henry draft a reply to Martin Luther’s challenge to the authority of the Catholic Church, defending the Pope and the Church
  • Named Speaker of the House of Commons (1521)
    • Passes first legislation providing for the Parliamentary right of free speech
  • Named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1525)
biographical background10
Biographical Background
  • Meanwhile (1527), Henry is having difficulty producing a suitable heir (ie., a son) and seeks to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon
  • More refuses to endorse the ploy
biographical background11
Biographical Background
  • Despite his opposition to the divorce, More is named Lord Chancellor in 1527*
    • Presiding officer of the House of Lords
    • Selects Judges
    • King’s Counsel
    • Chief legal officer

*first and only layman to hold this position

biographical background12
Biographical Background
  • In 1532, More abruptly resigns all his offices, ostensibly for health reasons
  • Meanwhile, Henry is having difficulty getting his divorce from Catherine and begins feuding with the Catholic Church
  • In 1532, Henry separates from

Catherine and travels with Anne Boleyn, gets her pregnant

biographical background13
Biographical Background
  • Pope Clement VII refuses to acknowledge the divorce and excommunicates Henry from the Church
  • In 1533, Anne Boleyn is crowned new Queen of England, More refuses to attend the ceremony
  • Henry has Parliament pass Act of Succession (1534)
biographical background14
Biographical Background
  • The Act declares Anne’s child the rightful heir to the throne and denotes Catherine’s child, Princess Mary, a bastard
  • More refuses to sign
biographical background15
Biographical Background
  • Henry also produces Act of Supremacy which declares the King of England as the leader of the Church in England
  • Marks official break with the Catholic Church
biographical background16
Biographical Background
  • All nobles are required to take Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging Henry as the leader of the Church
  • Failure to take oath is tantamount to treason
  • More decides not to take the oath
biographical background17
Biographical Background
  • More was arrested and confined to the Tower of London (17 April 1534)
  • Found guilty of treason and beheaded on 6 July 1535
  • Beatified in 1866
  • Canonized in 1935
  • Patron saint of lawyers
  • “Utopia” is a fictionalized description of an ideal city
  • Originally published in Latin, rather than English
  • Presented as a dialogue of sorts between Hythloday, a citizen of Utopia, and More, a visiting ambassador to the continent
class conflict
Class Conflict

“I have no doubt... that wherever men have private property and money is the measure of everything, there it is hardly possible for the commonwealth to be justly governed or to flourish in prosperity.”

class conflict21
Class Conflict
  • Source of the strife?
    • The rich will try to use laws to protect the goods and property they possess
    • The poor will have greater incentive to try to steal from the rich, or, to use political machinery to do it for them
class conflict22
Class Conflict

“...the only way to promote the well being of the pubic as a whole is to establish equality of all goods.

  • If we have equal distribution of assets, then we eliminate class conflict and thus much of the strife in our political life
class conflict23
Class Conflict
  • But equal distribution is impossible in a system of private property relations
  • Some people will manage their share better or worse than others, some people will be more or less lucky than others, etc., so that we’d end up with inequality every generation and have to redistribute anew
class conflict24
Class Conflict

“Such equality can never be found where every man’s goods are his private property. For there every man lays claims to as much as he can get. Then, no matter how great the abundance, a few divide all the riches among themselves, leaving the rest in poverty. And for the most part, the poor are more worthy to be happy and propserous than the others. The rich are covetous, crafty, and really quite useless; the poor, on the other hand, are lowly, simple, and by their daily labor more beneficial to the common welfare than to themselves.”

class conflict25
Class Conflict
  • More introduces a key point here in pointing to the disconnect between “use value” and “exchange value.”
  • The truly important work necessary for the life of the society, the “useful” labor, tends to be undervalued on the market
  • What do the wealthy actually contribute to society?
class conflict26
Class Conflict

“But as long as private property is the rule, the heavy and inevitable burden of poverty and wretchedness will weigh down the largest and best part of mankind. I grant that this burden may be eased, but it cannot be wholly removed while private property reigns.”

class conflict27
Class Conflict
  • The only solution, then, is communal ownership
  • Property held under common, rather than private, control
  • If we must divide up the assets of the community, we would naturally hit upon an equitable distribution of those assets
culture and community
Culture and Community
  • In Book II, More presents a fairly sophisticated account of the importance of political culture in shaping our beliefs and attitudes
  • He points out that our attachment to fashion serves the interests of class divided society, and, more importantly, that it is largely a learned behavior
culture and community29
Culture and Community

“Where money is the standard of everything, many vain and superfluous occupations must be pursued, although they serve only for wanton luxury and false pleasure. If the same multitude that now is occupied in work were divided into the few occupations that the truly necessary work requires, the abundance of goods that would ensue would be so great that the prices would doubtless be too low for thei craftsmen to maintain their livelihood...”

culture and community30
Culture and Community

“But if all these who are now busy in useless occupations, with the whole flock of those who live idly and slothfully, consuming and wasting every one of them more of those things that come from other men’s labor than two of the workers themselves do-- if all these, I say, were set to useful occupations, you can easily see how little would be enough, even too much, to supply us with everything we require for the sake of necessity or comfot. Yes, or even for pleasure, as long as the pleasure be true and natural.”

culture and community31
Culture and Community
  • In other words, scarcity is an artificial (man-made) condition brought on by a social organization that puts illusory needs over genuine needs
  • Take for example housing:
culture and community32
Culture and Community

“[t]he building or repairing of houses takes everywhere else so many men’s time becaue the careless heir allos the house his father built to fall into decay. So while he might have preserved it at little cost, his successor is now constrained to build it anew at great expense. Many times also one man has so refined and delicate a taste that he sets no value on a house that cost another man much money. As the house is neglected and shortly falls into ruin, the man of refined taste builds another one in another place at no less cost.”

culture and community33
Culture and Community
  • Or consider fashion
  • Why do people spend so much money on clothes?
  • What is the function of clothing? Is it to clothe the body and conceal nakedness or to make a statement about one’s taste and class standing?
  • Recall the distinction between “use value” and “exchange value.”
culture and community34
Culture and Community
  • But in Utopia

“Because they are all engaged in useful occupations, there is plenty of everything they need; and because a few workers are enough for each craft, they sometimes bring out great numbers of people to repair the highways, if any need repair. Many times, also, when they have no such work to do, an open proclamation is made that they should devote fewer hours to work...”

culture and community35
Culture and Community

“For the authorities do not force the citizens to labor unnecessarily. Why should they? The chief aim of the constitution and government is to spare people as much time as possible from necessary occupations so that they can leave the labor of the body and give time to the freedom and culture of the mind. For this, they suppose is what makes for a truly happy life.”

culture and community36
Culture and Community
  • The point of the labor is simply to provide sufficient resources so that we can dedicate ourselves to the truly worthwhile human activities
  • Foster the life of the mind -- arts, literature, philosophy, theology, science, etc.
culture and community37
Culture and Community
  • Use socialization process to inculcate in the population a value and belief system that emphasizes equality and simple pleasures
  • More points to the idea that it is our culture that shapes our attitudes toward wealth and private property
  • Change the culture, the attitudes
communist politics
Communist Politics
  • The population of Utopian cities are subdivided into groups of 30 households
  • Each subdivision then elects a leader (the Syphogant) for the subdivision
  • The Syphogants then annually elect a leader among themselves
communist politics39
Communist Politics
  • Current European governments are unjust since they do not rest on the consent of the governed
  • And the perpetuate a class hierarchy that punishes the truly important members of society and protects the idlers and useless
communist politics40
Communist Politics

“[England] gives great rewars to so-called gentlemen, goldsmiths, and other idlers and flatterers, or to those who devise useless pleasures, on the one hand; then, on the other, it fails to provide for poor plowmen, coal miners, laborers, carters, ironsmiths, and carpenters, without whom no commonwealth can survivie...”

communist politics41
Communist Politics

“After it has abused tha labors of their lusty and flowering years, it abandons them to a miserable death. Besides this, the rich men every day snatch away from the poor some part of their livelihood, either by private fraud or public law. So to their despicable treatment of the workers whose pains promote the pulbic good, the rich now give the name of justice under law.”

communist politics42
Communist Politics

“It is better to lack nothing one really needs than to have many unnecessary things-- better to be rid of unnumerable cares and troubles than to be besieged with great riches”

communist politics43
Communist Politics

“Therefore when I consider all these commonwealths which nowadays flourish everywhere, God help me but I perceive nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who serve their own interests under the name of the common good.”