Robert Owen’s second community experiment in America, Socialville, was based totally on socialist ideals of science and reason; this community had the potential to rein enforce the weak economy during America’s everlasting quest for perfectionism. America’s economy was flourishing with technological advancements that would usually suffice for the happiness of its citizens only a number of failures in the system left it open for scrutiny. During an age of reform, American Romanticism produced a group called American Transcendentalists that were the first to condemn these new advancements Due to this, many activists sought to make utopian societies as the shadow of industrialism loomed and circled them around religion. Robert Owen’s second community experiment in America, Socialville, was based totally on socialist ideals of science and reason; this community had the potential to rein enforce the weak economy during America’s everlasting quest for perfectionism. No other groups attempted to solely embrace economic ideals in order to make a successful community expect for Robert Owen.
Industrialism was exploding in America. It caused the development of huge cities, built around the factories the kept the economy a-float. Technological advancements like the cotton gin, steamboats, railroads, and canals pushed the U.S. into being a self-sufficient urban machine (Davidson 259-269). These advancements were positive for America’s economy, but were easily broken down by political weakness or according to Josiah Warren, the American individualist anarchism brought on by free market and strong advocacy for private property (Wikipedia Foundation 4). Both left the possibly successful American economy always on the edge of disaster. Many economic problems pushed Americans into the unemployment and poverty that made the government vulnerable to criticism. One disaster that rattled the everyday life of many Americans was The National Bank Panic of 1819 that led to an economic depression. As stated in Nation of Nations this break down “made the 20s a time of soul-searching, during which many uneasy farmers and workers came to view the hard times as punishment for having lost sight of the old virtues of simplicity, frugality, and hard work. For these Americans, banks were a symbol of the commercialization of American society and the rapid passing of a simpler way of life” (Davidson 303). The economic downfalls would not end there, but grow larger as the next depression was much larger and hit a broader range of people. The Panic of 1837 during Martin Van Buren’s presidency left the economy in shambles as the international cotton market collapsed (Davidson 306).
American Transcendentalists identified the problem with America’s market economy, no matter how successful, would ultimately destroy the nature of human beings and of the land our country was founded (Davidson 323). Transcendentalists could be called the first group of hippies because of their identification with perfectionism only through peace of mind within nature. Unlike hippies, the Transcendentalists in the early 1800s displayed most of their influence through the literature world having followers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Fenimore, and Bronson Alcott (Davidson 332-333). Due to the massive wave of Romanticism and Transcendentalism thinking, the individual quest for perfectionism sparked the idea to make utopian communities away from this economic monster.
The going back to the “good ole’ days” was taken to a whole new level by religious groups making utopian communities. Thanks to the Romanticism infiltration of living in close connection with nature; religious groups sought to totally isolate themselves from the outside world in order to achieve perfectionism (Davidson 324). The two main religions that made the most communities were Christianity and the Mormons (Davidson 326). These communities made up rules and regulations specific to their religion’s ideals along with a focus on agriculture being a pure means of community survival (Davidson 325-326). No other groups attempted to solely embrace economic ideals in order to make a successful community expect for Robert Owen.
Robert Owen was a Scottish industrialist that drew up the plans for Socialville. His belief was “that the character of individuals was shaped by their surroundings, and that by changing those surroundings, one could change human character” (Davidson 327). Also, the weakness in America’s economy was it’s frailty in authority, individual need for material goods, and cause for mass impoverished people (Wikipedia Foundation 2-3). His planned community Socialville was a socialist run community with a classless society. Owen recommended that Socialville contain about 1200 people, “all living in one large building in the form of a square, with public kitchen and mess-rooms. Each family has its own private apartments, and the entire care of the children till the age of three, after which they should be brought up by the community, their parents having access to them at meals and all other proper times… Work, and the enjoyment of its results, should be in common” (Wikipedia Foundation 3).
Ultimately, Socialville did not last due to a lack of individual sovereignty and property ownership in a time of expansion and freedom on a newly discovered land. The ideals of a perfect society were there, but the time, place, and greed would not handle such a task. This was not the first attempted society based on a utopia, but one of the many that failed. Utopian societies continually evolved into different ideologies such as Techno-Communism, which believes that digital development will advance society, and Nazi Germany had utopian-led ideals during their massacres in World War II.
The Socialist Utopian belief was one of many attempts to expand and create a society for a group of people, just as the original settlers had done. The involvement of major thinkers and writers helped its cause to be recognized by the American government, and attempted to be elected into office on multiple occasions. Although the Socialist movement was not successful in America, many countries have relished under a socialist rule for many years.
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