New Harmony, Indiana

Mack Kelley and Tom Woloszko

1) New Harmony, Indiana was the site of a failed utopian experiment run by Robert Owen. Owen purchased New Harmony and began his experiment there. In New Harmony there was equality between all of its inhabitants, both male or female. Each citizen was responsible for contributing to the labor force of the community. Workers wages were payed commensurable to the amount of time they worked. The community failed in less then three years due to a lack of religion. The people had no one thing such as religion to unite them and motivate them to work for the society. New Harmony was very similar to the Oneida Community except it did not stress religion. While New Harmony was a failed attempt at social reform, it did become a town of national significance for its sciences.

Image 1: New Harmony, Indiana, the town established by Robert Owen to test his ideas of cooperation and other social reforms.

Image 2: On January 3, 1825, Robert Owen purchased the town of Harmonie, Indiana, from religious leader George Rapp. Rapp and his followers returned to Pennsylvania, and Owen's utopian society got off to a big start.

3) "In 1813 Owen published two of the four essays in A New View of Society; or, Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, in which he expounded the principles on which his system of educational philanthropy was based. Having lost all belief in the prevailing forms of religion, he developed his own creed that he took to be an entirely new and original discovery. The chief point in Owen’s philosophy was that man’s character was formed by circumstances over which he had no control. For this reason, man was not a proper subject of either praise or blame. These convictions led him to the conclusion that the great secret in the right formation of man’s character was to place him under the proper influences from his earliest years. The nonresponsibility of man and the effect of early influences were the hallmark of Owen’s entire system of education and social amelioration."

"New Harmony represents one of the less successful American utopian experiments. Like the Shakers which it followed, and whose organization New Harmony's founder studied, and Oneida , which would follow it, New Harmony resulted from the utopian vision of one man, Robert Owen. Owen based his conception of utopian society on the belief that an individual's character was shaped by his or her environment. Owen therefore believed that by controlling the environment, superior character could be developed which would result in a new utopian social order."

--University of Virginia American Studies Hypertext Project

Robert Owen attempted to create a utopian society in New Harmony using a system very similar to present time socialism. Owen's utopian community would create a "superior social, intellectual and physical environment" based on his ideals of social reform. Owen was motivated to buy the town in order to prove his theories were viable. But to due to the ban on religion imposed by Owen, the township lacked a common covenant to bind them together and eventually failed.

4) Cause and effect

Owen argued that the permanent cause of distress was the competition of human labour with machinery, and that the only effective remedy was the united action of men and the subordination of machinery.

Created a system similar to socialism, community worked together toward common goals and prospered or suffered as a result. Communal housing, provided by governing body. Small towns of 300-5000 people living in a mainly agrarian society that would be completely self sufficient.

Important people

Robert Owen, founder of new harmony and the source of its social reforms to socialism

Connection to earlier time

Josiah Warren, who was one of the participants in the New Harmony Society, thought that community was doomed to fail due to a lack of individual sovereignty and private property. "We had a world in miniature — we had enacted the French revolution over again with despairing hearts instead of corpses as a result. ... It appeared that it was nature's own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us ... our "united interests" were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation...".


After witnessing the failure of the new harmony township, Josiah Warren began the development of American individualist anarchism.

Was one of the first attempts of a socialist society

Sources: "New Harmony, 1838$." New Harmony, 1838$. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

"Robert Owen (1771-1858) Social Reformer, Founder of New Harmony."ROBERT OWEN. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

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