Early Utopias

by Ralph Palladino.


Pro 19th Century Utopias, Plato; The Republic, Moore; Utopia, Bacon; New Atlantis, and Campanella; The City of the Sun.

Early Utopias as we have come to know them, illustrate the most ideal of civilizations in a most simplistic fashion. The works of Plato, Moore, Bacon, and Campanella all exhibit this simplistic ideal civilization. They however are not purely economic systems of the ideal state, buy instead, are philosophic views of the virtue and its relationship to the organization of the state. I through my readings of these works have come to know and understand these relationships. In the following prose I will examine the works of each of the authors and will identify and classify the economic ideals and systems embodied in these classics.

The works of Plato are the oldest among the group. His creation called “The Republic” dates back to the times of the ancient Greeks. Plato was a philosopher by trade and was a temperate one at that. He in his “Republic” attempts to fashion a virtuous state that is modeled after the virtuous individual. All the excellent characteristics of the virtuous individual he felt could be recreated in the perfect state. Plato then goes on to describe the state, which he feels to be the most excellent in every way.Plato argues that the state must possess the same virtues as the individual, it must be wise, brave, and temperate. Therefore he deduces that the state must be created of three types of individual.

First he speaks of the Auxiliaries, who possess the great skill and servitude in the area of defense. These individuals are born and from the start possess all the characteristics of a guardian. This is their only purpose, to guard and defend the state.

  Secondly, he speaks of the Guardians who possess great wisdom, these are the rulers and decision makers of the state and that is their only function. Finally he discusses the producers who create the commodities for the state. With these different individuals, Plato argues that the ideal state will only exist when these three characteristics come together to form a bond in which no one works for himself, but rather all work together to elevate the state. They all perform their said duties only for the advancement of the state, self advancement is no longer a question because everyone’s lives are intertwined in a common goal, to produce the highest and most virtuous state.


Here we can clearly see the earliest origins of communism, as we know it. Plato makes no mention of a market economy, but since the individuals are integrated together to benefit the state, we can draw the parallel between The Republic and modern communism.


The next work is that of Sir Thomas More. Utopia, written by More in 1515 and 1516 is comprised in two books. Book one consists of a story of an ambassador of Henry VII who meets a great traveler who has no allegiance to any state. Through the ambassadors interest in the travelers lack of allegiance he prods the traveler to explain why. The traveler whose name is Raphael then goes on to explain the country of Utopia (book 2) and its attributes.Raphael then talks about the island of Utopia. Utopia is composed of numerous towns of the same size, dimension and population. It is basically an agricultural state, where all are trained in that area.

If one wishes to perform another trade he may but only after mandatory agricultural training. Their clothing is all the same and when visitors from other nations come the people of Utopia find their bright clothing quite strange. The Utopians have no need for money because everything that one needs is provided for them. They only keep money to pay foreign mercenaries in times of war. Their government is ruled by Princes, which each town has. It seems that the society lives in complete uniformity. They have no material values, for they feel that esteem is the greatest of all pleasures. They do however have a strange way of dealing with criminals, they are not killed, but instead they are sentenced to slavery. Slaves lives are quite miserable due to their daily heavy labor, but on the whole the concept of slavery serves as a deterrent to crime.

In examining these facts I also must point to the clear description of a modern communist state by an author more than four hundred years gone. “Thus I have described to you the constitution of that commonwealth which I do not only think the best in the world, but the only commonwealth that deserves that name. In all other places it is visible that while people talk about commonwealth, every man seeks his own wealth; but there (Utopia) where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public.”1) In this quote we can clearly see the communistic character of Utopia. In following this point, “In Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep public stores full, no man can want anything; for among them there is no uneven distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity; and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich.”2) This second quote illustrates the communistic character of More’s Utopia.


Francis Bacon is the next creator in the evolution of the early Utopias composing “New Atlantis” in 1629. New Atlantis begins with the tale of a voyage of a ship from Peru. After a long and hard venture the food and vitals were running short. Also 17 of the crewmembers fell ill. In desperation the crew discovers New Atlantis, which most certainly is modern day Australia.

Bacon through the crew describes a very closed state, which doesn’t take lightly to strangers. Despite this fact the crew is finally allowed to come on to the land to care for the ill. Here Bacon begins to describe a highly advanced culture.

 This fact is evident because the New Atlantians have knowledge of Europe, China and The New World. They speak languages of all of these areas and they possess greater knowledge of navigation housing and engines than the Europeans do. Bacon goes on to describe the highly important nature of religion to the New Atlantians. He then goes on to describe all the excellent characteristics of the Atlantian society, unfortunately however, being originally written in Latin the piece ends abruptly without a detailed description of the political and economic system. Nevertheless, we can deduce from the existing piece, that a commune like life was the norm.


The final piece “City of the Sun” was written by Thomas Campanella some time before his death in 1639. He was a contemporary of Bacon and an avid lover of science. The story is a political dialogue between a Grand Master of the Knights and a Captain. The dialogue picks up when the Captain returns from a voyage in which he visits the City of the Sun.

The captain begins by describing the most beautiful of cities built with great walls on an elevated hill, which rendered the city easily defendable. He states that all the people even the women are trained in defending the city.

The state is ruled by the highest priest called Hoh who is the highest authority on matters of spirit, law, and business. There are three other princes below Hoh each of which possess different virtues. Here we see the centralized nature of the rulers of the City of the Sun. Campanella then goes on through the dialogue describing a society in which all things are shared equally by all of the citizens of the city. “All things are in common with them, and their dispensation is by the authority of the magistrates (Hoh and priests). Arts and honors and pleasures are common, and are held in such a manner that no one can appropriate anything to himself.”3) The captain then goes on to describe the nature of private property and how it alone is the cause of self-love, the evil force that can destroy all states. Ergo in the absence of all private ownership, there is no possibility of jealousy, which he feels is a negative force in terms of state stability.

Looking at The City of the Sun in this light, we can see that Campanella had given the concept of communal living much thought. We can clearly see the communist ideas embodied in Campanella's works. He illustrates a central leadership along with the abolition of private property that most certainly points to modern communism.

In closing, I feel that these works are much more philosophically oriented rather than economically. Nevertheless all of the works have incorporated some degree of economic thought into their philosophical reasoning. What amazes me so much is the fact that communism was contemplated so long before the birth of Carl Marx its father.



1) Ideal Commonwealths comprising Mores “Utopia”;

Bacons “New Atlantis”; Campanella's ‘City of the Sun”; and

Harrington’s “Oceans”; revised edition, New York: The Colonial

Press, 1901. p. 95.

2)Ideal Commonwealths; p.95.

3)Ideal Commonwealths; p.147.


1)    A.I. Melden, Ethical Theories, (Prietence Hall Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1967,)

2)   Ideal Commonwealths Comprising More’s “Utopia”, Bacon’s “New Atlantis’ , Campanella’s “City of the Sun”, and Harrington ‘s ‘Oceans’. (The Colonial Press. New York. 1901.)






OK Economics was designed and it is maintained by Oldrich Kyn.
To send me a message, please use one of the following addresses: ---

This website contains the following sections:

General  Economics:

Economic Systems:

Money and Banking:

Past students:

Czech Republic

Kyn’s Publications

 American education

free hit counters
Nutrisystem Diet Coupons