Utopian Socialism: Definition, Features & Problem

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Utopian socialism was an ideal of thought established by Robert Owen, Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier. The  utopian socialism aimed to the creation of an ideal society, which would be achieved peacefully, thanks to the goodwill of the bourgeoisie.

The name ‘utopian socialism’ came from the word “Utopia” by Thomas More, and utopia refers to something that does not exist or cannot be achieved. According to utopian socialists, the socialist system would install itself slowly and gradually.

Karl Marx distanced himself from the concept of utopian socialism, since according to this current the formula for achieving equality in society was not discussed.

The opposite of utopian socialism is scientific socialism, which criticized the utopian because it did not take into account the roots of capitalism. Karl Marx called the methods of the utopiansbourgeois” because they were based on the sudden transformation in the consciousness of individuals in the ruling classes, believing that only in this way would the goal of socialism be achieved.

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Utopian socialism emerged as a response to the abuses caused by liberalism and capitalism at the time of the Industrial Revolution. On this occasion, many workers (many of them children) lived in great poverty and were exploited, with absurd working hours and no conditions.

In England, Robert Owen even put into practice some principles of utopian socialism in some of his factories, reducing the workload, increasing wages and providing housing solutions for his workers.

Scientific Socialism and Utopian Socialism

Scientific socialism, also known as Marxism, was an opposite current to utopian socialism. Created by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, scientific socialism was based on the critical and scientific analysis of capitalism.

Scientific socialists criticized utopian socialism because they saw in this current a passivity and a utopia, as they hoped that exploiting individuals would gain a social conscience so that reforms could be put into practice. Scientific socialism had similar goals, but it had a less “romantic” vision, as it provided for better working and living conditions for workers through a proletarian revolution and armed struggle.


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