Politics in Minutes (2016)

Utopian socialism

The socialist goals of an egalitarian and cooperative society have often been dismissed by critics as naive and unrealistic, and many early socialist thinkers were labelled ‘utopian’. Among them were the French political and economic philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon and the Welsh reformer Robert Owen, whose visions of an ideal modern society based on cooperation and equality were an inspiration to more realistic socialist theorists including Karl Marx.

Unlike later socialists, utopian socialists did not advocate political revolution or conflict between capitalists and workers. Owen, as a factory owner, was in a position to put his ideas into practice, and set up just such a community in a mill in New Lanark, Scotland, and later planned a larger one in the USA. Utopian socialism was short-lived, however, as revolutionary communist ideas offered a better chance of bringing about social change. However, some of the principles of utopianism were taken up by parts of the growing anarchist movement.


Robert Owen’s vision of New Harmony, a short-lived but influential utopian settlement established in Indiana, USA in 1825.