New Beginnings: News From Nowhere

 

News from Nowhere is a utopian fantasy written by famed artist and designer William Morris, in which a Victorian narrator travels through time to the year 1962 into an unrecognizable England. A workers’ revolution has transformed the country into an idealized socialist paradise; all traces of the industrial revolution are gone, property has been abolished, and money and class are nonexistent. This feudal fantasy influenced numerous English writers, from CS Lewis to Tolkien, and while it’s not the most engaging read (certainly not as vivid as Morris’ otherworldly artwork) it makes for a fascinating view into another world…

“Said I: ‘I thought that I understood from something that fell from you a little while ago that you had abolished civil law. Is that so, literally?’

‘It abolished itself, my friend,’ said he. ‘As I said before, the civil law-courts were upheld for the defense of private property; for nobody ever pretended that it was possible to make people act fairly to each other by means of brute force. Well, private property being abolished, all the laws and all the legal `crimes’ which it had manufactured of course came to an end. Thou shalt not steal, had to be translated into, Thou shalt work in order to live happily. Is there any need to enforce that commandment by violence?’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘that is understood, and I agree with it; but how about the crimes of violence? would not their occurrence (and you admit that they occur) make criminal law necessary?’

Said he: ‘In your sense of the word, we have no criminal law either. Let us look at the matter closer, and see whence crimes of violence spring. By far the greater part of these in past days were the result of the laws of private property, which forbade the satisfaction of their natural desires to all but a privileged few, and of the general visible coercion which came of those laws. All that cause of violent crime is gone. Again, many violent acts came from the artificial perversion of the sexual passions, which caused over-weening jealousy and the like miseries. Now, when you look carefully into these, you will find that what lay at the bottom of them was mostly the idea (a law-made idea) of the woman being the property of the man, whether he were husband , father, brother, or what not. That idea has of course vanished with private property, as well as certain follies about the `ruin’ of women for following their natural desires in an illegal way, which of course was a convention caused by the laws of private property.'”

 

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