The word ‘utopia’ traces its origins to the title of a book written by Thomas More in 1515. At the time, a new elite was amassing wealth by enclosing common lands and Utopia was written as a damning critique. It attacked the practice of hanging thieves and denounced the king for ruling over a nation of beggars.

‘For one man to abound in wealth and pleasure, when all about him are mourning and groaning, is to be a jailer and not a king’.

The second part described a land known as ‘Utopia’ that looked exactly the same as England but where property was held in common. In this land of Nowhere (the translation of the Greek word utopia) people led a serene and cheerful life because ‘though no man has anything, yet all are rich’.

Utopia was not a programme for change but a brilliant literary device to hold up a mirror to existing society.


This is a passage taken from Kieran Allen’s Marx: An Alternative to Capitalism p. 152/3.

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