Utopia Theory in History Icaria

About the theoretical utopian society Icaria devised by Etienne Cabet, about the social, political, and economic structure.

Name of Utopia: ICARIA

Who Created: Etienne Cabet (1788-1856). Born of a French working-class family. Received a good education, became a lawyer, and was made attorney general of Corsica by Louis Philippe. Fell into disgrace because he thought he could impose his counsels on the King. Persecuted for an article he wrote. Exiled to England, he wrote his utopia, which became very popular with the French working class. Played an active part in the Paris revolution of 1848. Finally, he came to America with a group of followers to start a new nation. This attempt failed and he died disillusioned.

Described in: Voyage en Icarie (1840).

Physical Layout: Isolated from the rest of the world by mountains and rivers. Divided into 100 provinces, each province divided into 10 communes. The capital is Icaria, which is built in the shape of a perfect circle. A river, altered to run straight, flows into the center of the city where it divides to form a round island on which is a public square and the main public building. By the building is a terrace with an "immense" column surmounted by a "colossal" statue. All streets run straight. Symmetry is the rule. There are thousands of "street cars" (drawn by horses). Sidewalks are covered by glass canopies.

Political and Social Structure: A "democratic republic," but with a strong state apparatus. The entire population is organized into popular assemblies which refer matters they can't handle to a legislature consisting of 2,000 recallable deputies, and to an executive branch composed of a President and 15 ministers. The population is also divided into 15 committees, each under the guidance of a committee of experts. The committees of experts have the real power over everyday concerns. There are supposed to be no classes, but there is a bureaucracy of experts.

Property and Distribution of Goods: All personal property and means of production form "a single social Capital." The distribution of goods is determined by law according to the principle of equality. The state makes means of production available, collects goods in storehouses, and dispenses goods to each family.

Production: "All must exercise a trade and work the same number of hours." There is an attempt to reduce hours and render work agreeable and without danger. Extensive use of machinery. Every vocation is considered equally respectable. Public distinction for especially productive workers. Militarylike order and discipline.

Family/Marriage/Sex: Six-month courtship. Education and public opinion--not law--encourage conjugal fidelity.

Place of Women: Like the men, they have trades, but retire earlier (at 50 instead of 65). Given attention and respect. Yet, they are expected to prepare meals.

Education and Culture: Aims at forming "good workers, good parents, good citizens, and true men." Rigid censorship controls artistic production.

Daily Life: Everything is regulated by law. For example, "no one can eat anything which the Republic does not approve." A committee determines number of meals, mealtimes, number of courses, ingredients of food, and the daily menu. Another committee determines every aspect of daily attire. There is a uniform for every "condition" (age, sex, marital status, etc.) and every occasion.

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