RCC Honors History Project

Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy

Posted by chad612 on May 13, 2009

Lillith Reynolds, the project coordinator in Working, made this interesting comment:

“What would be my recommendation? I read Bellamy’s Looking Backward, which is about a utopian society. Getting paid for breathing is what it amounts to. I believe we’d be a lot better off if people got paid for what they want to do. You would certainly get a bigger contribution from the individual. I think it would make for wexcithing change. It’s be great.”

The book was published in 1888, and is about a man who  falls into a deep  sleep and wakes up in utopia (Boston in 2000):  drastically reduced working hours,  retirement with full benefits at age 45. All production has been nationalized, and goods and wealth are evenly distributed (using precursors to debit cards).

Other than prefiguring Soviet communism in some ways, it is interesting that this book from Mother Jones’ time would be inspirational to someone in the early 1970s, largely for idealizing increased leisure time and the concept of work that is rewarding and fulfilling.

Here is a quote from the book:

“It was the sincere belief of even the best of men at that epoch that the only stable elements in human nature, on which a social system could be safely founded, were its worst propensities. They had been taught and believed that greed and self-seeking were all that held mankind together, and that all human associations would fall to pieces if anything were done to blunt the edge of these motives or curb their operation. In a word, they believed – even those who longed to believe otherwise – the exact reverse of what to us seems self-evident; they believed, that is, that the antisocial qualities of men, and not their social qualities, were what furnished the cohesive force of society…. It seems absurd to expect anyone to believe that convictions like these were ever seriously entertained by men….”

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