Utopias as Social and State DesignsJune 28, 2021
During the Renaissance, utopias were written as ideal state designs.
These utopias are works written in a literary language in the form of a novel. The main ones among these utopias are Thomas More’s Utopia, Tommaso Campanella’s State of the Sun (Civitas Solis) and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (Nova Atlantis). In all three utopias, ideal society and state designs appear.
Thomas More (1478-1535) presents an ideal and socialist design of society and state in his novel Utopia, written in 1516. In this society and state order, every single individual in the society is morally mature and there is a just social order. The basis of this moral maturity and just society is that private property has no place in this society. The just and ideal society described in this novel took place in the state located on an island called “Utopia”. In this society and state, there is an order based on property equality. Therefore, there is no injustice. Since money is not used, needs are met by exchanging goods. In such a society and state order, science and art have developed. The aim of such a state is to provide an ideal society. For this reason, everyone should be equal in this society, whereas property eliminates equality. Therefore, there is no private property. The state meets all the needs of society and individuals.
The word utopia comes from the Greek ‘utopos’ meaning no place, no land.
Thomas More, while describing an ideal situation, also criticizes the social situation of England in his time. What he criticizes is private property, which he thinks causes all kinds of evil in society. According to More, there can be no talk of social justice where there is private property. Where there is private property, the whole society cannot be happy, only a few in number. However, in a society where there is no private property and full equality, everyone will be happy. This ideal situation is described in the island of Utopia, designed by More.
Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639) also described an ideal society and state order in his work called Civitas Solis (State of the Sun). Science and philosophy dominate this state. The rulers of this state are also people who have received a good education. At the head of the solar state is a ruler who is both a philosopher and a priest. As in More’s Utopia, there is no private property in the ideal social order described in this work, everything is used in common. People do not have their own homes, wives, husbands, children. According to those who live in this society, such things make people selfish and reduce their love for the whole society and the state. However, the important thing should be the welfare and benefit of the whole society. Like More, Campanella also criticized private property and found the condition of a just society and moral individuals in the absence of property, where everyone is equal. It is necessary to see this work of Campanella as a criticism of the social and state orders of his time.
More and Campanella’s utopia designs present a just society and a just state design and bring a critique of the privately owned societies of their time.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English philosopher who wrote a utopia called Nova Atlantis. In this work, an ideal society and state design based on science and established on an island called Ben Salem is presented. On this island, a society and state whose relations with the outside world have been cut off are described. Every 12 years, a ship is sent to the outside world from this island to learn about scientific developments elsewhere. There is an academy on this island called the Chamber of Sciences, and this academy is an organization that conducts science and research, and also organizes scientific research. The task of this organization is to search the existing, to search for the cause of everything. The society and state on this island are very advanced in terms of science and technique compared to the societies and states in other countries of the world.
In Bacon’s ideal society and state design, as in More and Campanella, “The idea of knowledge, not the idea of social justice, was made the basis of the state” (Gökberk 2008, p. 191). Bacon’s ideal is to reorganize society and the state according to the data of science and knowledge. In other words, knowledge and science are seen as the basis of society and the state. Thus, Bacon can be considered the precursor of ideas such as the information society and the state of science. Behind these thoughts is his understanding that makes science the chief value.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook