Utopia - Professor Duggan Hist-344 December 11, 2006...

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Professor Duggan Hist-344 December 11, 2006 Abolition of Private Property: How Utopia’s Common Property Makes Common Sense The most defining characteristic of Thomas More’s Utopia is the policy of communal property. Raphael Hythloday, an acquaintance of More’s in the book, describes the island of Utopia and its society in the dialogue of Utopia . Hythloday argues that Utopian society virtually eliminates all social ills such as poverty, hunger, anxiety, theft, and other crimes. The policy of communal property and absence of private property in Utopia is also reinforced in Utopia’s customs and laws. According to Hythloday with no private property the root causes of all social problems are eliminated. Hythloday also maintains that pride holds back the rest of the world from adopting Utopian policies while the virtues of humility and industriousness can improve the world. Thomas More’s character in Utopia disagrees with Hythloday’s argument concerning private and common property. More’s character within the dialogue initially says that communal ownership in place of private property would not work because, “nobody would work hard enough” (45). This argument of monetary and material motivation is a classic argument against abolition of private property. However, Hythloday responds this and other possible criticisms as he describes Utopia in detail. While More ostensibly disagrees with Hythlodays argument and Utopia’s policy of communal ownership in the beginning of Utopia one must remember that More is writing a fictional dialogue. Using the technique of dialogue More is exonerated from 1
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any potentially incriminating statements written in Utopia . Thus, More is allowed to explore the other side of communal ownership without explicitly espousing the idea himself. More knows that a large portion of his audience will be prejudiced against accepting these ideas of communal ownership in place of private property. By using dialogue he proceeds indirectly at encouraging a reformation of our ideas. Early in Book One of Utopia More explains to Hythloday that although you cannot always “completely eradicate wrong ideas” or make people act in a certain manner, “you must go to work indirectly. You must handle everything as tactfully as you can…” (42). More is referencing here exactly what he is doing by writing this dialogue. As a result the satire that is Utopia is developed. And since More’s work is fictional and his created character Raphael Hythloday does most of the dialogue, it is safe to assume that More wants the reader to pick up on a deeper meaning. This means that the story is didactic; while telling an interesting and at times an amusing story More urges us all to lead a better life closer to those of the Utopians. More is able to safely state the benefits of a communal ownership society while still maintaining that Utopia’s policies impractical although he would like to see many of them adopted in Europe. The benefits of a classless society without private property are many.
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course HIST 344 taught by Professor Duggan during the Fall '07 term at University of Delaware.

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Utopia - Professor Duggan Hist-344 December 11, 2006...

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