Modern Collectivism’s Origin

Jim Huntzinger
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Posted: Feb 06, 2018 12:05 PM
Modern Collectivism’s Origin

While socialism is the predominant term used today, many other terms are used in various writings and commentary; for example, central planning, communism, statism, collectivism, progressivism, Marxism, interventionism, and other variations. Depending on the particular topic or situation, these terms have the ability to offer detailed insight regarding circumstances described.  However, the delusional utopian view of making society a better place through economic, societal, and governmental constructs of socialistic models has been around since Robert Owen, who coined the term socialism.[1]  From 1836 to 1844 Owen published a series of seven volumes titled, The Book of the New Moral World.  Much of the familiar rhetoric of an idealistic world and human being was discussed in this series, but no practical and actual application.In 1836 Owen writes to King William IV of Great Britain in the opening of his first volume:

It unfolds the fundamental principles of a New Moral World, and it thus lays a new foundation on which to re-construct society and re-create the character of the human race.  It opens to the family of man, without a single exception, the means of endless progressive improvement, physical, intellectual, and moral, and of happiness, without the possibility of retrogression or of assignable limit.

Society has emanated from fundamental errors of the imagination, and all the institutions and social arrangements of man over the world have been based on these errors.  Society is, therefore, through all its ramifications, artificial and corrupt, and in consequence, ignorance, falsehood, and grave folly, alone govern all the affairs of mankind.[2]

Owen writes quite vividly of the “progress” of man in gaining complete happiness with the achievement of science to change his nature and character. He states that “engendered by ignorance and selfishness, will cease to exist” and that embracing his utopian vision will “create a new character of wisdom and benevolence for the human race.” Owen continues:

"[A] New Moral World, in which truth alone will govern all the affairs of men, and in which knowledge, unchecked by superstition or prejudice, for the first time, will be done to human nature, by every feeling, faculty, and power, inherent in each child, being cultivated to its full extent; and cultivated, too, by the concentrated intelligence and goodness of the age…In this simple, straightforward, and rational manner; in peace, and universal consent, through conviction of its incalculable advantages to each individual, will the great change be effected, from evil to good, from misery to happiness."[3]

"Scientific arrangements will be formed to make wealth everywhere, and at all times, superabound beyond the wants or wishes of the human race, and all desire for individual accumulation, or any inequality of condition, will consequently cease."[4]

"…[people] will become superior, physically, intellectually, and morally; each will know all the duties of life, and will have the greatest desire to execute them in the best manner…In this New World, the sympathies of human nature will be rightly directed from infancy, and will engender a spirit of benevolence, confidence, and affection, which will pervade mankind."[5]

"…which will lead to the consideration of the best mode to Produce and Distribute Wealth, - to Form the Character, and to Govern Men in the aggregate, so as to insure their happiness.  The Religion and Morals of the New World will then be explained, and their superiority shown over the mysteries and inconsistencies of the religious and morals of the old world."[6]

Although Owen was a very successful business man, his ventures into developing a socialistic society continually failed.  By all accounts Owen seemed to be a genuinely caring and charitable man; he was suspicious and resentful of religion, specifically Christianity.  Owen, along with the editor of his paper, The Free Enquirer, Frances Wright, “denounced the clergy as purveyors of ‘superstition’ and urged readers to substitute reason for dogma.”[7]  It is fascinating how his rhetoric is exactly the same as the collectivists today, only the years and authors change.  They think if only we could follow this utopian socialistic path then maybe all could reap in great wealth, great knowledge, great benevolence toward one another, and superior governance.  Yet, these types of people truly live in a delusional existence; and, unfortunately, are driven to drag the rest of humanity into the doldrums of their utter foolishness and false belief.

Although he had an antipathy toward religion, Owen converted to spiritualism at the end of his life.The irony with Owen, as with many successful and otherwise intelligent men, is that he missed the tie between their economic successes in life and the principles and practices of Christianity.

[1] See Dan McKanan, Summer/Autumn 2010, “The Dialogue of Socialism,” Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Vol. 38, Nos. 3 & 4, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Divinity School), [http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news-events/harvard-divinity-bulletin/articles/the-dialogue-of-socialism], and also Thomas Sowell, December 19, 2012, “’Forward’ to the Past?” townhall.com, [http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2012/12/19/forward-to-the-past-n1468799/page/full/].

[2] Robert Owen, 1840, The New Moral World, containing The Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society, (Glasgow, Scotland: H. Robinson & Co.), p. iii.

[3] Robert Owen, 1840, The New Moral World, containing The Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society, (Glasgow, Scotland: H. Robinson & Co.), p. xi.

[4] Robert Owen, 1840, The New Moral World, containing The Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society, (Glasgow, Scotland: H. Robinson & Co.), p. xiii.

[5] Robert Owen, 1840, The New Moral World, containing The Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society, (Glasgow, Scotland: H. Robinson & Co.), p. xv.

[6] Robert Owen, 1840, The New Moral World, containing The Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society, (Glasgow, Scotland: H. Robinson & Co.), p. xvi.

[7] Carolyn Karcher (ed. by Sharon H. Harris), 2004, Blue Pencils & Hidden Hands: Women Editing Periodicals, 1830-1910, Chapter “Frances Wright of the Free Enquirer: Woman Editor in a Man’s World,” (Lebanon, NH: Northeastern University Press), p. 81.