Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Utopian Motives

In normal capitalist society, incentive to work rises from the profit motive or self-interest involving competition for theoretically scarce resources or commodities.

In a collective, cooperative, socialist or communist society, however, such individualistic motives are repressed or redirected, while others are promoted instead.


competition b/w teams or collective units:

Thomas More, Utopia (1516): [2.4c] . . . there lie gardens behind all their houses. . . . They cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs. And this humour of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation beween the inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant. 

honor, pageantry (badges), emulation

Looking Backward 7.6: Our young men are very greedy of honor . . . .

9.47: [9.47] "Does it then really seem to you," answered my companion, "that human nature is insensible to any motives save fear of want and love of luxury, that you should expect security and equality of livelihood to leave them without possible incentives to effort? . . . Not higher wages, but honor and the hope of men's gratitude, patriotism and the inspiration of duty, were the motives which they [19c leaders] set before their soldiers when it was a question of dying for the nation, and never was there an age of the world when those motives did not call out what is best and noblest in men. And not only this, but when you come to analyze the love of money which was the general impulse to effort in your day, you find that the dread of want and desire of luxury was but one of several motives which the pursuit of money represented; the others, and with many the more influential, being desire of power, of social position, and reputation for ability and success. So you see that though we have abolished poverty and the fear of it, and inordinate luxury with the hope of it, we have not touched the greater part of the motives which underlay the love of money in former times, or any of those which prompted the supremer sorts of effort. The coarser motives, which no longer move us, have been replaced by higher motives wholly unknown to the mere wage earners of your age. Now that industry of whatever sort is no longer self-service, but service of the nation, patriotism, passion for humanity, impel the worker as in your day they did the soldier. The army of industry is an army, not alone by virtue of its perfect organization, but by reason also of the ardor of self-devotion which animates its members.

The results of each regrading, giving the standing of every man in his industry, are gazetted [published] in the public prints [newspapers, journals], and those who have won promotion since the last regrading receive the nation's thanks and are publicly invested with the badge [pageantry & honor] of their new rank."

[12.4] "What may this badge be?" I asked.

[12.5] "Every industry has its emblematic device," replied Dr. Leete, "and this, in the shape of a metallic badge so small that you might not see it unless you knew where to look, is all the insignia which the men of the army wear, except where public convenience demands a distinctive uniform. This badge is the same in form for all grades of industry, but while the badge of the third grade is iron, that of the second grade is silver, and that of the first is gilt.

[12.6] "Apart from the grand incentive to endeavor afforded by the fact that the high places in the nation are open only to the highest class men, and that rank in the army constitutes the only mode of social distinction for the vast majority who are not aspirants in art, literature, and the professions, various incitements of a minor, but perhaps equally effective, sort are provided in the form of special privileges and immunities in the way of discipline, which the superior class men enjoy. These, while intended to be as little as possible invidious to the less successful, have the effect of keeping constantly before every man's mind the great desirability of attaining the grade next above his own. [emulation]

Extended family, esp. parents (or mothers') love for children > concern for future improvement


[5.80] The power of mother-love, that maternal instinct we so highly laud, was theirs of course, raised to its highest power; and a sister-love . . .

[6.49] "Here we have Human Motherhood—in full working use," she went on. "Nothing else except the literal sisterhood of our origin, and the far higher and deeper union of our social growth.

[6.50] "The children in this country are the one center and focus of all our thoughts. Every step of our advance is always considered in its effect on them—on the race. You see, we are MOTHERS," she repeated, as if in that she had said it all.



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