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Looking Backward | Study Guide

Edward Bellamy

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Looking Backward | Chapter 24 | Summary



When Julian West gets up in the morning he goes to find Edith Leete, and in the course of his search he finds his way back to his old bedchamber. He picks up a newspaper from his desk, thinking it might interest Dr. Leete. At breakfast Dr. Leete reads some of the old paper, much of which addresses the labor conflicts of the day and the anarchists. Julian asks what role the "followers of the red flag" played in the revolution that brought about the new social order. Dr. Leete says anarchists were actually an obstacle because of the fear of change they created. He explains that, in fact, anarchists had been financially supported by capitalists who were the "opponents of reform." Neither were the labor parties the agent of revolution. Dr. Leete claims it was not until change focused on "the rearrangement of the industrial and social system ... for the more efficient production of wealth ... equally of all classes" that a movement for a new social order was made possible. He attributes this movement to the nationalist party, "the most patriotic of all possible parties," focused on "making the native land truly a fatherland, a father who kept the people alive."


The author here provides a glimpse into the transition period between the America of Julian West's previous day and the new nation in which he now finds himself in an imagined 2000. Julian is curious about how such a revolution came about and who the major actors were. According to Dr. Leete it was not anarchists who ended capitalism, although they certainly posed a threat at the end of the 19th century. He claims that capitalists actually subsidized the anarchists. This sounds like a conspiracy theory that contains just enough truth to be interesting and to feel threatening. Capitalists were clever enough to support the anarchists because they realized people's fear of the chaos of anarchy would motivate them to resist the changes anarchists proposed and to long for the stability they already had. Nor was it the labor parties who lobbied for change on the part of workers who actually brought about the revolution. It was instead, and rather ironically, a group focused on making the nation more "efficient" at making wealth that overturned capitalism. The author calls this group the nationalist party. According to Dr. Leete, the nationalist party dreamed of creating a nation to provide for its people's needs, like a father.

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