Sunday, February 11, 2007

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

I started reading the 1888 classic utopian novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. I'll be blogging about it on a "whenever I damn well feel like it" basis and I invite you to follow along at home. You can either read it free here or here or you can do what I did and buy a cheap copy on Amazon.

The book is set in the far distant future of 2000 when the inhumane practices of captialism have been replaced by a compassionate, human-centered post-capitalist utopia. What drew me to the novel was the fact that it was the most read book of its time and clearly speaks to an alienated public of industrial workers with hope that the future would be better. We can debate the political realities of such a situation all day long but again, I marvel at a world filled with hope for the future. It makes me wonder what a utopian society of 2100 envisioned in 2007 would look like.

Follow along if you please. I'm assuming I'll do a few chapters a week.


(Note: The second free version of the book I link to appears to be from some Christian cult but I found their formatting to be superior to the Gutenberg/first link version. Just a warning.)


the clicker said...

One thing I've always appreciated about "Looking Backward" and a few other utopian novels, is that they didn't feel compelled to destroy the utopia at the end of the story, because of one minor, negative aspect. That's always annoyed me about stories like "Logan's Run" and so many others -- that a technological utopia was constructed, but due to one aspect of its function (in that case, the Carousel), it ALL had to be destroyed. Why not just change the one aspect that's negative, and keep all of the good stuff? Does the infrastructure always HAVE to be sacrificed because of one negative element of the way it's run? No, Bellamy constructs his utopia (which includes a few things that I have trouble with), but he stands by it, bless him.

Josh Glenn said...

Nice post -- and good point, Bricology.

As a Bostonian, ever since I first read "Looking Backward" I've been disgruntled about how things have turned out. If I were elected mayor, I'd hand the city over to MIT and tell them to turn it into Bellamy's version of Boston, minus the forced labor.

Here's an essay I wrote about Bellamy, Bellamyites, and the political necessity of paleo-futurism for the Boston Globe.

Matt Novak said...

Thanks for the link to your article. I actually read it a few weeks ago when I did a quick search for critiques of "Looking Backward." Very well written piece.

libertyvini said...

Bellamy and his cousin and compadre Francis Bellamy (originator of the Pledge Of Allegiance) worked their whole lives to bring about Christian Socialism. Brief post on the topic;

Brandy said...

Intriguing! I have marked it, and will read it as I catch up on your blog.

When you are finished, may I recommend "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach? I wish it were a true book, being a resident of Cali! And with everyone 'going green' of late, this book shows what a TRUE reduce/reuse/recycle culture could look like!