Literature Study GuidesUtopiaBook 2 Chapter 3 Summary

Utopia | Study Guide

Sir Thomas More

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Utopia | Book 2, Chapter 3 : Of Their Magistrates | Summary

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Summary

Raphael describes a complex system of justice with a number of creative names for the individual levels of the judiciary. Every year, he says, 30 families choose a magistrate called a Syphogrant. He says, "Over every ten Syphogrants ... there is another magistrate ... called the Tranibore." The Syphogrants choose a Prince-for-life by secret ballot from a group of four options provided by the people of the city. Every decision must be debated for three days, and no one may discuss State matters outside of the council or assemblies under pain of death.

The Utopians have complex rules that make it impossible for the government to enslave the people. The Syphogrants are required to communicate all important issues to the families they represent. If there is a major issue to decide, it "is referred to the council of the whole island." No decision is made on the same day the matter is debated, "so men may not rashly and in the heat of discourse engage themselves too soon."

Analysis

Utopia's system of governance is similar, in some ways, to Plato's Republic—another imaginary world with an imaginary government made up of just and ethical men. It is also as different as it could be from Tudor England. Instead of the absolute rule of Church, monarchs, and the nobility, Utopians rule from the bottom up. Individual groups of families are responsible for selecting their representatives. The representatives themselves are also responsible to communicate all issues of importance to the families.

More obviously is not recommending that England suddenly become a communistic paradise, but he seems to be suggesting many Utopian methods for governance make a lot of sense. Yes, Utopia is imaginary—but the idea of insisting on communication, debate, and "sleeping on" every important decision seems applicable to any system of government.

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