Utopia The Impossibility Of Perfection

1669 words - 7 pages

Utopia - The Impossibility of Perfection

"The latter end of [this] commonwealth forgets the beginning." ?William Shakespeare, The Tempest

From Plato's The Republic to Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto, the search for a perfect social state has never stopped; its ultimate goal of achieving a human society that exists in absolute harmony with all due social justice, however, has proved to be woefully elusive. The pure concept of a utopia can be theoretically visualized as a perfect geometric circle: one that is seamless, all-inclusive, yet impossible to draw out in reality.

In 1516, Sir Thomas More depicted in his famed Utopia what he envisioned to be an ideal state?one that frees its citizens from material worries by mandating economical equality amongst them and dividing social responsibilities impartially. More's work, however brilliant, cannot conceal the serious fallibilities and troublesome limitations of the utopian thoughts; and being the ambivalent creator that he was, More consciously emphasized the paradoxical nature of his ideal society. A century later, in his last work The Tempest, the great playwright William Shakespeare presented his audience with a mystical Commonwealth that is a reflection of the Golden Age from the classical literature. This fantasy, wrapped in the larger still whimsy that is The Tempest, will have the human race return to the purest state of nature. The Tempest, on the other hand, can be interpreted as a critique of the Utopian state. If the apparent paradise can only be sustained by magic and the deconstruction of human civilization, Shakespeare seems to imply, then utopia is altogether unachievable and impracticable.

There is little doubt that Sir Thomas More's Utopia is a work of social criticism on the harsh social reality in King Henry VIII's England. Through the mouth of the idealistic and fiery character Raphael Hythloday, More uncompromisingly railed against the then-present society and its endless evils, among the most important of which were the Closure Movement (consequently, loss of land possession by farmers) and the unreasonably harsh law system that fathered a vicious circle: "?if you do no find a cure for these evils, it is futile to boast of your severity in punishing theft ? what else is this, I ask, but first making them thieves and then punishing them for it?" (More 14)

What, then, is the root of all these evils? According to Hythloday, it is the economic system that is built upon the fundamental principle of private ownership: "So long as private property remains, there is no hope at all of effecting a cure and restoring society to good health" (More, 29) Utopia has no currency, no use for precious metals or luxury of any sort, and most importantly abolishes private ownership. The result, as Hythloday mythically describes it, is a perfect world in which people leave in accord because they are cut off from the source of greed and envy. In this world, people develop a complete...

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