Eutopia is a word to describe a place of perfection, or ideal well-being. Sir Thomas More wrote a book called “Utopia”, where he used this term as a double-entendre to convey to his readers the perfect society, according to his beliefs, and to also indicate that it did not exist. Utopia is a Greek term that can be defined as “no place”. It is a widely held belief that a eutopia is impossible. The idea of eutopia is relatively subjective. Some believe that it is a world without hunger, a world without pain and suffering, a place where everyone lives in harmony. There have been many attempts at creating a utopia in the past, however, these communities failed due to poor management, requirements the inhabitants were not in agreement with, and because of the failure to do what is required to sustain a community. I’d like to believe that a eutopia is possible, but that it would be an iterative process.
More’s “Utopia” had concepts that resonated in the minds of the colonists that came to America to settle it. Slightly modified concepts are in place today, such as the fining of criminals rather than killing them, mass production of food to feed people, and the ability of the people to plead their cases before the court, with one exception, there were no lawyers in More’s “Utopia”, even though he was a lawyer himself. While many would say America is not Utopia, it is considered to have some of the best opportunities, treatment, and freedoms compared to many other countries.
To understand why past eutopias failed, we’d have to look back in history at the various establishments and the cause of their downfall. Robert Owen, a textile manufacturer, came to America in 1824 and invested in a socialist community called New Harmony in Indiana. He had already experienced failure in his first attempt to create a perfect society in Europe. He decided to attempt his socialist experiment in the new world, calling it the “New Moral World” model. Owen provided free education, cooperative agricultural and industrial training, a public library, and basic needs. However, he left the community to recruit, and as the community expanded, it lacked his vision and direction due to his absence. Without the cohesion that only he could bring, the residents lost heart and motivation for the project and left. The New Harmony community lasted only two years. While Owen’s dream of a utopia failed, he did leave us with some great concepts such as child labor laws and the eight-hour workday which are established in our current society.
Another well-known gentleman by the name of Henry Ford, the maker of affordable American automobiles, also attempted to establish a eutopia of his own in Brazil which he named Fordlandia. The vision for his ideal place was near the Amazon rain forest where workers would harvest rubber to supply the demand for the automobiles his factories built. Henry was able to get people to come work for him in his community, but the entire community rioted and destroyed the factories when Mr. Ford decided to ban the consumption of alcohol. Henry Ford was a teetotaler and required all employees to do the same. The factories were later repaired, but Ford was unable to produce rubber due to the need to plant trees, but they either didn’t take root or died of blight. When Ford’s son Henry Ford II took over managing the company’s assets, Fordlandia was sold back to Brazil due to it’s underperformance.
There was once a vegetarian settlement, called Fruitlands, that only lasted about a half a year around 1843. The founders of this settlement were Amos Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane, who both believed that they could free themselves and their community from the bonds of economy and trade by simply being self-sufficient. They grew their own food and made the goods they required to live. They refused to use any animal products. They only wore linin as they had banned cotton because of its association with slave labor. They used no animals in their farming as they believed them to be inferior and requiring human protection. However, even with their abundance of good intent, their community failed to change the world. Instead of farming as they intended, they spent their days philosophizing and teaching one another, which led to having no food to supply them through the winter that same year. They left in December of 1843.
We’ve already discussed a few people who had come to America to start building their eutopia which begs the question what really makes a eutopia? Is a eutopia possible for the masses, or is it only an individual’s perspective? If a group of people share the same vision, agree on the strategies, tactics, methods employed, and are willing to do what it takes to make a civilization sustainable, it may be possible to have a eutopia en mass.
However, it cannot be a place of reckless abandon where all caution is thrown to the wind. Ideas of perfection do change over time, and those who conceive of them must have a way to be heard, their ideas debated, and edified or dismissed. The society must continually evolve, as that is the nature of progress and growth, which happiness can be a result of. A truly eutopian society will not be fixed in time and remain unchanged. Lack of progress would cause stagnation which is the underlying reason many of the past settlements went from a “great place” to a “no place”.
A eutopian society might start with some of these concepts and grow from there:
- Criminals should not be imprisoned but should be rehabilitated, educated, and treated for any illnesses they may have. Restitution should be made directly to the families or businesses harmed by their actions.
- Education should be free for all people, as it is through education that a person will begin to release the narrow viewpoints they’ve traditionally held as knowledge increases and presence of mind expands.
- If a method of production causes harm to nature or people, it should be reviewed and revised to be more ecologically friendly ensuring sustainability and the health of the environment.
Any society could have the potential of becoming a eutopia by employing these innovative changes. Small changes like these, that have the potential to make a huge impact on everyone. Eutopia can’t be built in a day, and won’t happen overnight, but changes towards the betterment of mankind is a good place to start.