Failure in a Modern Utopia

Saturday 30 December 2023

Wells, H. G. In A Modern Utopia, 135-174, 1905 

This chapter in H.G. Wells’ 1905 book A Modern Utopia discusses the possible failures in a modern Utopia. The book walks a very thin line between fictional and non-fictional, with a premise of two travellers making their way across the Alps, whilst realistically and eloquently discussing what the makings of a Utopian society would look like. This could fall under the term ‘useful fiction’, whereby the book is narratively exploring what a future could look like under a fictional lens. 

 Wells lays out his understanding of ‘A Modern Utopia’, where it does not eliminate all competition, but instead places humanity on equal levels. He says that most Utopian writers pretend that humanity is purely happy under a Utopia, however, the real world is made up of survival or failure. A Utopia should eliminate the extremities of success and failure, but they should still exist in some regard. A failure would not result in a lack of housing, no poor food, shabby clothing, or debt, but instead be a personal or moral failure, highlighting a human’s innate need for competitiveness. Furthermore, while to some the ideal world would be without work at all, Wells believes that work is essential to a functioning society. Idleness to a human eventually becomes dull, and there would be disarray without humanity to carry out menial tasks. The caveat is that work should be engaging, and everyone should have the opportunity to work how they want.  

This semi-fictional piece outlines how, even in a Utopia, it is important to consider a functioning, realistic society. Imagining an unrealistic society is detrimental to peace studies, as it provides impractical solutions.  

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