American Intellectual History
The nations of the world are shaped by a plethora of events and ideas. Just as any human being is a product of circumstances and ideas that he encounters similarly is the case of nations. The intellectuals of a nation are like potters shaping the destiny of the multitudes that inhabit their lands. They themselves are products of ideas of intellectuals before them and in turn leave their imprints on the sand of times and are a source of inspiration for others. The tumultuous changes that were taking place in the era that Bellamy inhabited animates and is a source of inspiration for his literary works .
American polity and social order were undergoing constant change . The old order which was representative of slavery, denigration of women and industrial capitalism was being replaced by a new social order . American society was witnessing a spurt in problems and hence we see that epoch witness a multitude of reformers. The novel looking backward is an identifying hallmark of the writer Edward Bellamy. Initially it generated little interest later on it catapulted to being the bestseller of its time. The social inequities of the nineteenth century always haunted Edward.
Even as a young lad of 18 his soul was stirred by the problems that the social machinery of the ancient industrial system was creating . There have been many writers trying the genre of utopian writings like Thomas Moore, David Hume but few have shown so much commitment to the ideals of the utopian society as Edward Bellamy. Human beings have always been anticipating the prospects of a perfect future as the present condition of society is unjust. It is an escape from the contemporary society were corruption was rife poverty slavery child labor was the order of the day.
The future of America is depicted as society where the difference between the rich and the poor is mitigated as there is equal distribution of wealth. The industries are not controlled by a few men of eminence but they are in the hands of the nation. The writer’s preoccupation with nationalism makes him envisage the state machinery as he savior of mankind. The unpretentious style and the use of commonplace language and immaculate images of the utopian society are some of the aspects of the novel which are responsible for its popularity.
The plot and the story of the novel seems to be unique as it seems to be an implementation of the ideals of Christianity and secular thought in a future time. Writer’s mind is like cauldron where ideas and thoughts prevalent in the society make unique dish. The ideas and the thought process of any individuals are shaped by the people around him and the movements that are invigorating the minds of writers, philosophers and intellectual. Similarly Edward Bellamy’s philosophical ideas are shaped by those of predecessor.
Orestes Brownson was an important influence on him as the novel gives a political and a religious solution to the ills of society. He was primarily thought to be a religious thinker whose world view encapsulates the political system of the American society . Democracy needs to follow the guidelines of the catholic creed so as to restrict individualism which threatens to undermine the bonds of communities. American nation evolved as result of the simultaneous influence religious and secular ideas.
He had fears that the individual pride is constantly becoming emboldened and the loftier virtues of love and the concern for fellow human being is lost in the urge betterment of ones life. According to Brownson “A republic can stand only as it rests upon the virtues of the people; and these not the mere natural virtues of worldly prudence and social decency, but those loftier virtues which are possible to human nature only as elevated above itself by the infused habit of supernatural grace.
” (“Brownson’s Works, 10:17-37)The utopia of Bellamy presents a perfect picture of a strong nation in which the individual‘s baser self like an unrelenting quest for material wellbeing is subsumed in the collective effort or maintaining that perfect elysian state. He was constantly preoccupied with the idea of nation as solutions to the problems of society. A strong nation with its individuals trained like a disciplined military is presented as a solution for the problems of his contemporary society.
Strikes were a big issue in the Edwards contemporary society and it finds a solution in his utopian novel where everybody is prosperous due to the fact that selfishness is replaced by brotherly concern. These moral high grounds have their root in Christianity which is adhered to by both Orestes and Bellamy . The future of America is safely ensconced in Catholicism. The influence of the idea of nation was imported from Europe. The crystallization of the ideas of a nation took place during civil wars in America.
Emerson a liberal and a strong proponent of individual rights started laying more emphasis on standing up for the nation’s freedom and sovereignty as the civil wars were threatening the existence of America. Brownson was a disillusioned by the liberal ideas o f individual aspiration and became a staunch proponent of conservatism which believes in preserving order . Society’s wellbeing is given preference over individuals hope and aspiration.
Looking back has protagonist who has slept more than 100 years and he opens his eyes into a perfect society which is made economically viable as the state is given full control of the industries . Brownson can be best described as a religious political conservatism. Julian west questions are answered by Dr leetes His explanations express the vision of the writer and the influence of Orestes Brownson is evident in the fact there is emphasis on strengthening of nation as the reason for fact that now the workers are no more going on a strike;
“The nation, that is to say, organized as the one great business corporation in which all other corporations were absorbed; it became the one capitalist in the place of all other capitalists, the sole employer, the final monopoly in which all previous and lesser monopolies were swallowed up, a monopoly in the profits and economies of which all citizens shared” (Bellamy 24-47) Brownson participated in the brook farm and it reflects the age old aspiration of practically putting ones ideas to a test . The same can be said about Looking back .
Edward Bellamy is trying to show that how his political religious and economic ideas can be practically implemented in a society. Brownson was born in the transitional phase and they formed a reform party which instead of relegating the church to the background was thought to be the machinery through which social reform could be brought about. The instability in the times of these writers is reflected in the fact that the intellectuals are constantly experimenting with different modes of Christianity . He stated his pastoral career as Universalist then moved to Unitarianism.
Finally he espoused Catholicism He is opposed to Brownsons stand point that human beings are essentially sinful . One of the reasons of writing looking back is the belief that innate goodness of man is a corollary of formation of a perfect state of being . Bellamy is a believer in the dissociation of personality for there is no sameness between our present and past personalities but only a graduated differentiation. ” (Morgan, 56) Memory is not a sufficient qualifier for identity . We are constantly in flux adorning one personality after another .
According to Bellamy it is the core of the being which is responsible for stringing together the different identities . Julian West’s hypnotic sleep is an example of dissociation of personality which is constant preoccupation of Edward. I sat up thus in bed staring about, without being able to regain the clue as to who he was. Brownsons saw individuality as the root cause of disintegration of society. There is similar charge against Bellamy that individual identity was sacrificed for the attainment of the perfect state.
There is compartmentalization of the individual the bad aspects like greed, competition, and amassing wealth in the hands of few is banished and the superior self which is reflection of the pristine image of God is allowed to reign. The end result of this enterprise is an era of tranquility. Social problems are completely routed from the face of the earth Man and society is perfectly matched in that millennium of utopian society. The fear of poverty has been vanquished as all the industries were in the hands of the state and thus there was no class conflict.
The strong robust state and Christian socialism are reminiscent of the Brownsonian influence on Edward Bellamy. Origin of species by Charles Darwin was published in 1859and it heralded an era of skepticism and transformed the perspective of the way we look at life. According to Vergilius Ferm: “Truly, the year 1859, in which appeared Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, marks a turning point in Western thought” (1936, p. 307). God was banished from the world view of man . There is complete paradigm shift from the philosophy of man’s purposeful existence to his being on this cosmos as result of chance and subsequent selection .
The creed of competing with one another for resources as the ultimate goal makes man an equivalent to animals and the most interesting aspect of the theory of natural selection is that it justifies greed as natural and a beneficial prospect because it leads to the selection of the fittest individuals. Bellamy was a staunch critique of Charles Darwin’s theory and its implication on the social ethics of industrial capitalism . His novel Looking Back provides an alternative to this rat race of outpacing each other with an impulse for self sacrifice and unselfishness.
Struggle for survival has no place in the society depicted in the novel as the inequalities are removed . The state controls all the industries. It is surprising that both these intellectuals who are preaching completely different dogmas are proposing that evolution is the process to reach the culmination of human prowess. Bellamy writes his utopia where evolution is employed to reach that perfect Elysian state. Looking back provides an insight into that perfect state that is achievable only when brotherly loves and unselfishness becomes a creed.
Chaos brutality and lack of human concern is substituted by love and generosity. Many social Darwinists like Graham Sumner criticize the utopian model as laid back attitude and wishful thinking by saying it is the greatest folly of which a man can be capable to sit down with a slate and pencil to plan out a new social world Bellamy constantly uses the notion of a nation as an alternative to the industrial competition of his times. Then the national party arose to carry it out by political methods.
“Indeed, it could not well have had any other name, for its purpose was to realize the idea of the nation with a grandeur and completeness never before conceived, touching tree whose leaves are its people, fed from its veins, and feeding it in turn. ” (Bellamy, 183) He deliberately uses the metaphor of plant to describe nature as the leaves of a tree are symbolic of the members of society who are living in a peaceful coexistence. The general health and wellbeing of the members of society is dependent on the heath of the trunk which is the supporting system.
The metaphor of a tree is very often used in bible and it is vey often used at the critical juncture of man’s destiny. Adam lost his ethereal existence because he ate from the forbidden tree. The novel derives its motivation from the doctrine of Christian socialism. Therefore the metaphors and the language reflect the theological preoccupation of the author. There is a deliberate of the Darwinian metaphor of an animal . The very existence of one another is dependent on elimination of the animal of lesser prowess. The revolution that is presented in the utopia is a bloodless one.
The foremost objection to the utopian ideal of equality is that it will produce in activity in the members of such a society as concept of competing with one another is lost is . Dr leetes answer to Julian West settles this question that the urge to work remains as result of the fact that the imaginations of the people is fired by passion for humanity and service to nation . It doesn’t mean that Bellamy is not influenced by Darwin’s theory of natural selection but the whole edifice of the Darwinian module is modified .
There is evolution in the society Women are exonerated of their household duties They are also assigned jobs but the working hours are less as they have to perform the task of building the character of the future generation . There is no exploitation of women and they receive equal remuneration. One of the offshoots of natural selection is sexual selection but in the utopia of Bellamy the economic basis of anything has no meaning. Therefore marriages take place due to love for each other not because of economic standing of the individuals.
The discovery of utopia of novel begins with the protagonist query about the industrial problem plaguing America. The answer to this question reveals the amount of the influence of the Darwinian concept of evolution . Dr Leete explains that this pathological condition was resolved by industrial evolution. Origins of species laid the foundation of biological evolution of man but it brought about revolution in almost all walks of life . These concept are both repudiated and incorporated in the novel but the concept of evolution undergoes refinement as it is cast in the theological mould.
The model of biological evolution provided a justification for the superiority of the white race . Strangely enough Bellamy who is at loggerhead with the concept of evolution of species is in complete sync with idea that the racial superiority of the west is a result of the survival of the fittest. The law of necessity is replaced by laws of morality . Many intellectuals were profoundly affected by the postulates of Darwin . But it is misleading to believe that he is social Darwinist in fact he was a critic if Darwin’s postulates in origin of species .
He has used the model of Darwinian evolution and reshaped it with love as the underlying force for achieving perfection. William Graham Sumner started his career as clergymen and returned as professor of political and social sciences . He believed in the persistence of inequalities in societies as material progress is dependent upon open competition . He saw government as a necessary evil as it defends us from the different vices prevalent in our society. It curbs individuals’ liberty and freedom He was a social Darwinist and was critical of Bellamy‘s impractical plans.
“The history of the human race is one long story of attempts by certain persons and classes to obtain control of the power of the State so as to win earthly gratifications at the expense of others”(Sumner . n. p) The nation replaces the industrial capitalism of the contemporary times in the Bellamy’s utopia . Sumner believed in giving maximum freedom to the industrial capitalism of his times whereas Looking back provides a replacement of this system as it is thought to be the root cause of all the evils of society . The social condition of the impoverished working class didn’t need any reformers as it was natural.
He was against any kind of government intervention to alleviate the condition of the suffering masses . He is a believer in the fact that material success is indicative of a persons capabilities. (Boland. n. p) As far as this is concerned they are at opposing end. Bellamy is for reforms and equal opportunity and pay for all the members of society . William Sumner was against the occupation of Spain by the Americans and this idea finds a echo in the novel as was he was against the occupation of Spain by the Americans and this idea finds a echo in the novel. Dr Leete denounces the act of aggrandizement
“Are they France, England, Germany, or hunger, cold, and nakedness? In your day governments were accustomed, on the slightest international misunderstanding, to seize upon the bodies of citizens and deliver them over by hundreds of thousands to death and mutilation, wasting their treasures the while like water. ” The American society was facing a lot of upheavals and industrial revolution brought urbanization and a variety of problems . The publishing of Darwin’s origin of species had raised many uncomfortable questions and many movements arose to establish the kingdom of God upon earth .
These movements also brought changes in the established religions and creeds. Solomon Washington Gladden sermons can be seen as the earliest example of The social gospel movement . It tried address the problems of the slums of Ohio and brought the workers of 1877 strike to a peaceful negotiation. The proponents of this movement believed in a confluence of Christian dogma with politics . They predicted a brighter picture of tomorrow. Looking back seems to be presenting the same kind of mixture of morality and politics and a prospect of a perfect future.
Like the social gospel movement the novel gives a concrete shape to the hope of a better tomorrow. The concept of brotherly love and helping the poor is not an anathema to the Christian doctrine but rather it was revived as the Victorian society was facing excess of moral violation of individuals in industrial capitalism . Bellamys combination of socialism and religiosity can be as seen an offshoot of the social gospel reform movement as any individual is a product of its time . The thought process of literary artists are shaped by the distillation of ideas his period.
The thought process of an individual is not shaped in vacuum . They are either a result of the reaction of doctrines that are prevalent in that period or an influence of other contemporary writers and philosophers. Genius don’t produce ides out of blue but it unique process of synthesis of ideas floating through that particular age . Early century and the great depression saw different intellectuals trying to lay the principles on which the society could get rid of its problem and the kingdom of god was to be established which would transcend competitive and exploitative industrialism of the contemporary American society.
Looking is an endeavor on part of Bellamy to show that such ideas are viable and practical. It is practical guide to establishment of a society based on the postulate of the egalitarian principles o social Christianity. The social reform movements from 1820 to 1860 show a distrust of establishes social systems. The gospel reform movement saw that for the first time the various denomination of the church came together in a joint venture to eradicate the problems of society . This dream of unification of various sects of Christianity is realize in the novel Looking back .
Julian asks Mr Barton about the reason of disappearance of various sects The answer was that passionate impulse of brotherly love was responsible for the founding of a nobler social order as the root cause of this unification Crisis in the American society was seen as initiative to accomplish the necessary changes . The whole novel can be seen as an attempt to forsee and how to practically implement those changes in society. The turn of the century saw massive problems like unemployment, abuse of corporate powers, poverty, crime, and corruption, influx of immigrants, child labor and massive depression.
These problems gave rise to a reform movement which was termed as the progressive movement. Progressive movement was a natural succession to the progressive movement. The youth of middle class rose to the occasion with a firm faith in fact that every problem has a solution. These problems can be put to end by the educated class . Education and specially women education received special stress . Consequently women rights were promoted and they started entering the job market as clerks and did other menial duties . Edward Bellamy in his novels gave women a lot of rights by the contemporary standards.
They received equal pay despite the fact that they were working for fewer hours . Another hallmark of this period is the demand of voting rights by women. The social order of Bellamy’s utopian world assigns equal but different roles to women. The feminist of the contemporary period like Charlotte Perkins Gilman agree with is assessment. The whole progressive movement resolved around that man has a inherent quality in him to improve his lot . It was rejection of the social Darwinism. The other problem that the progressives tried to address was the end of slavery .
The abolitionist movement tried to eradicate this problem . The utopian model stresses equality as the focal point and it is achieved through the equal pay for all the individuals. It is very important to note that the progressive movement is accused of not addressing the problems of racial discrimination And Bellamy was under the influence of Herbert Spencer who saw the whites as superior race as result of it being the fittest and the most ablest race . The progressive s believed that the state can play a pivotal role in solving the numerous problems that the American society is experiencing .
The authors are sensitive to trails and the tribulations of society and hence this is exactly the reason hat the fiction is trying to present a solution which is representative of the progressive ideology that state can help in the establishment of the heavenly state . The novel also presents the idea of the unification of the various denominations of Christianity and it is reflection of the fact that various creeds of Christianity rose under this reform movement to address the problems that was destroying the moral fabric of the society.
Frederick Winslow Taylor can be best described as synthesizer of the thoughts of his times and he gave a solution to the problem of optimizing the productivity of the workers. There was almost a mechanical stress on using scientific precision to improve the skills needed to perform a task in the industry . Years of apprentice ship is replaced by this mechanical process. This has a fleeting similarity to the Edwardian concept of building an army of workers. The dramatic improvement in the productivity was result of his innovation in the field of industrial engineering . He is accused of dehumanizing the modern industries .
There needs a change in the attitude of the workers to optimize the industrial production according to him change “consists of the complete revolution in the mental attitude and the habits of all those engaged in the management, as well of the workmen”(Taylor . pg131) Bellamy’s utopia presents the concept that the productivity is going to increase as result of passion for nation. Edward Bellamy has been unnecessarily been accused of being influenced by the Marxist concept of utopian world and he was for quite sometimes rolling the idea of the perfect state of life in his mind .
It was published 40 years before the it . The author himself had a disliking for the class conflict and a Godless society In one of his public lectures he gave vent to his urge to write about his passion for heavenly existence “It is an undiscovered country, no community of men has ever essayed its elysian climes, no human foot step has ever trod its shores. The faith of humanity points to its existence. But I know that it exists, and we must find it. … ” (Taken from Bellamy’s 2nd lyceum address of 1872). He gave a concrete shape to all his ideas of an ideal society in his novel “looking backward”.
The impact of the novel on the minds of men can be gauge from the fact that this novel gave rise to a nationalist movement . Columbia university requested philosopher John Dewey historian Charles Beard and editor of The Atlantic monthly Edward Week to prepare a list of writers who exercised a huge influence on society Edward Bellamy’s Looking back came second on all the three list and it was preceded by Marx’s Das capital. The novel brought about a change in the thinking of men in all walks of life . The ideas in the novel acted as spring board for other writers to develop and broaden the horizon of human intellect.
The idea that social injustice is caused by human struggle for physical as well as economic need for a better status launched Veblen’s provocative and creative career. Allen white the renowned American News Paper editor himself admitted to being shaped by the intellectual outpourings of this novel. “He feels indebted to the thrill that he encountered while reading the novel when he was young and the change of heart from the being a conservative to being open minded about the various problems plaguing the contemporary society. He also acknowledges the fact that many youngsters of his time had a similar experience .
It was the talk of the town The list of individuals effect by Bellamy’s monumental work Looking backwards is endless . It not only affected the individual members of society but also infused fresh blood into the intellectual thought process of his times . The ideas of social injustice derived from a race for economic betterment came into the forefront. He is a writer who inspires people and draws lines on which others can move forward on their intellectual journey. The novel is a presentation of social and economic order which is given serious consideration by experts in the respective fields.
The economist H. Stanley Jevons says: “I have gained more from Bellamy than from any single author. He deserves more attention from economists than he has received. The economic system he outlines does stand a rigid examination for workability in its essential features in his treatise. ” The novel presents economic equality in the co-operative commonwealth Despite the fact that the novel deals with utopia it has been not whisked away to be a wishful thinking but has been put to a practical implication The nationalist movement started with the formation of the first nationalist club of Boston in 1888 .
The chief characteristics of this movement were unselfishness and it invigorates an enthusiasm for humanity. The individuals of society don’t compete with each other rather they co-operated with each others. It adopted a tolerant attitude towards people who would be critical of this movement. Patriotism was a highly cherished ideal of this movement . Social reforms had to taken up by a nation so as to reap its harvest. Works Cited Auerbach Am Lit Hist. (1994); “The Nation Organized”: Utopian Impotence in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. Retrieved March 17, 2008 from: http://alh. oxfordjournals. org/cgi/reprint/6/1/24
Boland joseph(1995)U. S political thought . retrieved http://www. uoregon. edu/~jboland/lect_12. html Richard A. Spurgeon (1997). The Religious Ethics of Edward Bellamy and Jonathan Edwards. Journal of Utopian Studies. Vol 8. Retrieved March 17, 2008 from: http://www. questia. com/googleScholar. qst? docId=5000543586 Bellamy, Edward. (2000) Looking Backward. Applewood books. ISBN-10: 155709506X Native Americanism” (Brownson’s Works, 10:17-37). retrieved Sumner, William Graham. Essays of William Graham Sumner. Ed. Albert G. Keller and Maurice R. Davie. Vol. 1. New Haven: Yale UP, 1934 retrieved
http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1G1-56061945. html Wilmot Chester,the struggle for Europe 1954 pg 477 SCOTT McLEMEE “Back to the Future” December 24, 2000. Retrieved March 17, 2008 from: http://www. nytimes. com/books/00/12/24/bookend/bookend. html Vergillus, Ferm, (1936), First Adventures in Philosophy (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons). Retrieved March 17, 2008 from: http://www. apologeticspress. org/rr/reprints/Impact-of-Evolutionary-Philosop. pdf W. Taylor, Frederick Scientific Management, pg 131. Retrieved March 17, 2008 from: http://www. skymark. com/resources/leaders/taylor. asp