Utopian Socialism

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11257

Everyone shares everything and no one has unmet needs. Work hours are limited and there is plenty of leisure time. Does this sound good? It's been tried. Form your own plan and maybe change the world!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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If you observe the adults in your life, you will probably notice they are heavily concerned with work, money, and property, among other things. They are not alone in that; everyone is dependent upon these economic matters, and even the most fortunate among us sometimes live in fear of financial ruin.

Talk with an adult, who faces these challenges every day, and gather their thoughts:

  • Are salaries fair in today's world? What makes you think so or not?
  • How could work be made more tolerable?
  • Should we pay taxes to help the poor? Why or why not?

Each of these is one of many economic questions that reformers of the past and present have asked. Some people tried to answer these questions by building whole new societies.

  • Did they succeed, or did they fail?

Each of us has pet ideas about how the world could be made a better place.

  • Wouldn't it be great if we all moved to a four-day work week?
  • What about free college tuition for all?
  • Have you ever thought about receiving a guaranteed income, regardless of whether you have a job or not?

Those questions each represent real ideas for change that people have suggested for our society in recent years. Are any of them good ideas, or is it a case of, as the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for!"

You may have heard of socialism, the economic system that many countries in the world apply. The history of socialism starts with a simple idea:

The economic order has become unfair and unjust, and it needs to be reformed from the bottom up.

The utopian socialists were just such reformers who tried bold new economic experiments in America and abroad.

Read about the early utopian socialist movements and the people who led them. As you do, write down answers to the following questions:

  • Who were the major thinkers driving the movement?
  • What problems did they set out to solve?
  • What were the ultimate aims of these experimental societies?

Take a look at the article, Experiments with Utopia, courtesy of the Independence Hall Association. Reflect on the following questions:

  • Can you think of other reformers throughout history?
  • Why do people feel the need to reform the way resources and wealth are distributed?
  • Why is it such a challenge to successfully reform the economic and social order?

There will always be a certain number of people looking for bold new ways of living. When Elon Musk recently called for volunteers to join his mission to Mars (2016), hundreds of thousands applied, in spite of the serious risks and the unlikelihood of ever returning to earth.

No surprise, then, that in the mid-1800s, many would embark on experiments in utopian living.

In the Got It? section, you will explore some of those experiments in socialist living and discover what became of them.

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