How does the society in Sir Thomas More's Utopia contain social and religious conflict?

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ecofan74's profile pic

ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In Sir Thomas More's Utopia, the society he outlines embodies many of the ideas associated with socialist systems.  Everyone in society has a defined role within the society.  Furthermore, no one person holds unchallenged and lasting control over the population, as members of the population hold control over the society and transfer that control at certain intervals to other members.  As long as an individual serves a role in society, they participate in the governing process.  in a larger sense, fundamental to this idea is a social structure that allows for the participation of the people.  By extension, the people can express their opinions, although in a somewhat limited sense.

The fact that the population itself participates in the government of the society as a whole opens the door for conflict in the population.  Social conflict stems from the idea that one person's views are not privileged above those of another person.  The people can disagree on the direction society takes - and they do just that.  Religious conflict, too, often takes on this form.  Rather than argue concerning articles of faith, the population argues the role religion plays in the society, including how religion will be practiced, how religion will relate to the government of the state, and the like.  The relative openness of the society More creates in Utopia allows for the exchange of ideas on which conflict is founded.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sir Thomas More's Utopia describes a society in which social ills are cured as there is communal property, a condition which eliminates exploitation and class distinctions; there is also complete religious tolerance.

Social conflict in Utopia is contained because there is no class privilege. Everyone works, but no one is forced to work for hours and hours without rest and relaxation. There is free time given to everyone, although this free time must not be spent in idleness, nor in debauchery. Instead, people engage in intellectual pursuits that interest them.

Moreover, if there are exceptional people, they are exempted from work so that they can pursue careers based upon their talents, which then can be used to enrich and entertain others. Thus, careers are based upon personal interest rather than class privilege as in Europe during Sir Thomas More's time. The philosopher Raphael Hythloday tells More:

"Everywhere else people talk about the public good but pay attention to their own private interests. In Utopia, where there is no private property, everyone is seriously concerned with pursuing the public welfare."

Religious conflicts are avoided because no one religion is allowed to dominate the others. All forms of religion are allowed; there is complete tolerance by any one religion of the others. Only atheism is considered immoral because it is important to have a belief in an afterlife, for then people understand that real pleasure exists in acts of virtue that will eventually be rewarded.

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