what deep moral reasons cause More to critique private property

in one sentence

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

This excerpt can be found in Gradesaver's theme page for Utopia. After reading through it, you'll need to decide what you believe to be More's most important point.

Common welfare vs. private interest

The abolition of private property is one of More's chief criticisms of the Utopian state. On this point, the author allows his fictional equivalent (the character More) to disagree with Utopian policy and with Raphael Hythloday's interpretation of English society. Hythloday defends communism as practiced by the Utopians, noting that a similar sort of communal life was lived by the early Church and is still lived by the holiest monastic orders.

The Utopian argument is that pride is the great source of many crimes and injuries. By eliminating private property, class-based social stratification, and wealth, the Utopians remove the mechanisms with which much harm is done. In Utopia, there is no poverty and everyone works, quite unlike the feudal societies wherein there was much poverty and an inequitable distribution of labor. As modern history has revealed, communism is not the only alternative to feudalism and without a doubt, communism has not proved to be the most viable alternative to feudalism.

The Utopian position is founded upon an inherent distrust of mankind. At one point, we learn of the Utopians' claim that the afterlife of punishment or reward is the one thing that inspires man to obey law and respect others. This extreme position is reflected in the Utopian fear that private property will produce more harm than good and will cause the community to unravel. The Utopians are not opposed to the rational and intelligent improvement of one's interests. Rather, the Utopians seek the prioritization of the common welfare and the fulfillment of private interests through the common welfare whenever possible. Even private activities like eating, reading philosophy, and taking a vacation are inextricable parts of the communal life. Individual and private activities are discouraged. Privacy is a frightening notion for the Utopians: doors are constructed to give easy and immediate access to any passerby; it is a serious crime to discuss any political business anywhere other than the public assembly; families can be reconstituted by the state if the population distribution becomes lopsided.