Utopias of the British Enlightenment

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Gregory Claeys
Cambridge University Press, Jul 7, 1994 - History - 305 pages
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This is the first major collection of eighteenth-century British utopias. Seven tracts, spanning the century, show how the image of the ideal society was used as a form of social criticism, and particularly as a means of focussing on ideas of progress and commercial development. Radical and republican thinking about property ownership, social equality, and commerce and luxury - of particular relevance to the critique of 'corruption' in this period - coexists with nostalgic and conservative notions of the ideal hierarchical community. The introduction, which sets these tracts in a wider context of similar texts, examines their relationship to the political thought of the period, and shows how issues and developments of key importance, from the debate surrounding the French revolution to the origins of Romanticism and early socialism, are illuminated by an understanding of the utopian tradition.

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