Utopian Socialism


Utopian Socialism is marked by a desire to base society "on cooperation rather than competitive individualism and that property should be owned communally" (Sherman text) in an attempt to eliminate all class divides and improve everyone's value to life. It also places a lot of weight on theorizing and creating model communities.

Utopian Socialists believed:

  • Everyone should work.
  • Everyone should work "from each according to his capacity, in each according to his deserts." (Sherman text)
  • Everyone should work to the extent they can.
  • Everyone should be rewarded proportionally to their worthiness or entitlement within their profession.
  • Private inheritance should be abolished.
  • The "best of the best" ran this society.

In summary, in a Utopian Surrealists ideal world, all responsibilities, gender roles, etc. would merge together.

Problems Addressed

  • End of classes and competition (these were seen as the root-cause for the problems they were trying to fix).
  • End of poverty, suffering, and poor value of life.
  • Women's social status would increase, theoretically equal to men's.
  • Ideally, work and pleasure would become compatible, people would be doing as they pleased while still getting necessary tasks complete.

Assumptions about Societal Structures

  • Competitive, liberal economics is the cause of suffering.
  • Class division mean that the masses don't get to enjoy the wealth accumulated during the Industrial Revolution, only a small percentage of the population.


  • Everyone should work.
  • Everyone should work "from each according to his capacity, in each according to his deserts," (Sherman text).
  • Everyone should work to the extent they can.
  • Everyone should be rewarded proportionally to their worthiness or entitlement within their profession or job.
  • Private inheritance should be abolished.
  • Women should have the same social status as men.
  • Marriage should be loosened and given greater sexual freedom for all.

Realization of Ideals

The leaders of this movement imagined, and sometimes set up, communities that followed certain principles.

  • Everyone works to the extent they can, and is rewarded proportional to their worthiness or entitlement.

Charles Fourier imagined:

  • Agriculture and industry would be voluntarily attended to by people who live in communal apartment buildings with shared resources (Sherman text).
  • People would be paid according to the labor, capital, and take what they contributed (Sherman text).
  • People should do as they please, while still performing the tasks key to survival.

Fourier's ideas inspired many, including Robert Owen, who:

  • tried to take a town, New Lanark, and make it a model. (More on this under "Specific Reforms."

Specific Reforms

Note: Many of these may seem vague, in-concrete, or previously iterated as ideas etc. This is due to the fact that Utopian Socialists spent far more time theorizing than actually taking and proposing action. For more on the distinction between Utopian Socialism and the far more action-based Scientific Socialism, see "Uniqueness/Distinctions," below.

Saint-Simons' Ideas:

  • Wanted the basis of society to be the aforementioned "religion of humanity."
  • Everyone should work.
  • Private inheritance should be abolished.
  • The best of the best workers would run everything.
  • Everyone would work their hardest and be rewarded proportional to their needs.

Fourier's Ideas:

  • End economic competition.
  • Voluntary agriculture and industry.
  • Get paid based on contribution, talent, etc.
  • Women control their own money.
  • Marriage, specifically fidelity, rules are loosened.

Owen's Actions:

  • In his town in New Lanark, he:
  • Raised wages.
  • Shortened labor hours.
  • Ended child labor.
  • Provided education and recreation for employees.
  • Established sickness and old-age insurance.

As a result...

  • Productivity and profits soared
  • Eventually, though, internal and economic problems killed the town, cost Owen his fortune

Vision of the Future

Utopian Socialism proposed a vision of equality, fairness, health, and well-being on specific individuals, which in turn benefited the entire community.


The main distinction that needs to be made is one between Scientific Socialism and Utopian Socialism. Scientific Socialism is more concerned with pragmatic matters, political theory, class struggle, making sure the proletariat gets heard, etc. Utopian Socialism is often more concerned with theorizing about how society would work, picturing socialist communities, formulating political theories, etc.

What separates Utopian Socialism from other ideologies (and what alienated both conservatives and liberals) is that it is based off of the end of competition and class divisions.


Saint Simon

Charles Fourier

Robert Owen

The middle and working classes were all heavily in favor of this ideology. They were the ones who stood to benefit the most, as Utopian Socialism sought to improve work conditions and distribution of wealth.

In addition, some women were in favor of this, as Utopian Socialism planned to improve their social status, work capabilities, marriage conditions, etc. One example is Flora Tristan, influenced by Fourier. Her abusive husband gained custody of her children after their divorce, which sparked a campaign to end discrimination in the law, in marriage, and in working conditions. She firmly argued that equality between men and women could free the working class and transform civilization (Sherman text).

Where was it influential?

  • Primarily in France and Britain.
  • Various small towns that were built as models of a utopian society.
  • Towns that tried to mimic utopian socialist principles were often small, countryside towns.
  • Always took hold to some degree in places primarily populated by the working class.

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