In this paper, two projects from different epochs will be analyzed to comprehend if there are some changes in the socialistic understanding of human nature. The work by Robert Owen, “Lectures on the Rational System of Society”, is written in the middle of the 19th century. “Socialism and Human Nature” is created by Arnold Peterson in the middle of the 20th century. Both authors succeed in presenting their own arguments about how they see socialism and what its impact on human nature is. The creation of a practical system in society helps to provide every human being with happiness through all succeeding generations (Owen 1841).
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Owen (1841) underlines the necessity of change and the establishment of a new era and argues that human nature is a “compound of animal propensities, intellectual faculties, and moral qualities, or the germs of them” (p. 48). He tries to explain that one day a person can see how mistakenly the idea to respect human nature can be. At the same time, he offers to clarify what can make a person blind at the moment and introduces religion as one of those evils that confuse people and increase their miseries.
If Owen saw socialism as a kind of salvation for human nature and the possibility to promote a change that could make people happy, Peterson argues that socialism is incompatible with human nature (2005), it is against human nature, and people should realize that this beautiful dream cannot be taken for granted. Human despair is the reason why socialism has already gained so much power over people. People want to believe that they may control socialism as the ideology they have already established. Collective and governmental production can be used to meet the needs of people. However, people cannot be sure if they use the sources properly without hurting human nature.
Both authors create their works to demonstrate their attitudes to socialism and the importance of changes. Though the authors introduce different opinions, both of them help to realize that people cannot stop living in a mess they create day by day. Owen says that socialism is the answer to the question of how people can improve their lives, and Peterson wants to believe that socialism is the kind of hope people should be provided with. These two projects help to realize that socialist understanding of human nature has been changed considerably between the 19th century and the present times because people start doubting the quality of socialism and its possible positive impact on human nature.
Devoted socialists believed that classless society could be happy and successful. The social vision of the chosen texts is the governmental control of all activities and decisions made. The government should help to eliminate the competitions that could take place between people and provide all people with the same opportunities. However, the works of Owen and Peterson show that different epochs have different understandings of human nature and its importance.
At the end of the 20th century and even today, people continue living in an industrial society that requires the required forms of government and administration. At the same time, Peterson (2005) follows the idea that people should try to maintain freedom and order. People should never lose their hope to become better and satisfied with the conditions they have to live and work under “while a spark of the light of reason and of the flames of liberty still remain – while hearts still pulsate, and hands remain capable of grasping and holding aloft the torch of truth and freedom (Peterson 2005). Nowadays, many socialists view human nature as an economically dependent body that is in need of changes and improvements.
Still, Peterson, as well as many current representatives of socialism, believes that it is possible to provide every person with a national living wage, free higher education, and strong environmental and racial-justice policies (Purdy 2015). Peterson considers the opinions of different socialists and their opinions on how it is possible to keep human nature safe. He does not want to support either some radical changes or even gentle reforms.
His position seems like it is ok to continue keeping the status quo and discussing how the past and the present can be interrelated and influence the future. This project seems to be a logical interpretation of the ideas with the help of which the reader can understand that human nature serves as the best explanation of the majority of actions. If people make mistakes, they say that it is human nature to make mistakes. If a woman cannot achieve the required goal and protect her rights, she can say that it is her human nature.
Though Owen’s ideas do not actually contradict the opinion that is introduced by Peterson, it is possible to say the Owen is more confident in his words and suggestions. His intentions may be explained by the fact that he was a kind of socialist pioneer in Britain, and his experiments had to be confident and certain to attract the attention of other people (Simeon 2012). His idea that human nature is the combination of animal propensities seems to be a powerful contribution that makes people believe that it is not enough to keep the status quo or promotes some gentle reforms. Radical changes and the creation of a new society is the solution offered by Owen because humans nature is not fixed yet but malleable (Roberts & Sutch 2012).
People should not despair and continue changing something in their lives. As well as Peterson, Owen stays logic in his interpretations and underlines the power of thought and explanation in all ideas and suggestions.
Nowadays, many opinions about the role of socialist and the understandings of human nature are developed by the representatives of socialism. Sometimes, the association of socialism with social justice confuses people and makes them come to not always appropriate conclusions (Kabbany 2016). Peterson seems to be a more successful analyzer of socialism and its understandings of human nature. He considers the historical examples like slavery can prove that socialism is usually against human nature.
As for Owen, the Industrial Revolution can be used as the historical evidence of his ideas because it caused the development of divisions between people and the inabilities to comprehend what changes were really important. Owen tries to provide employees with equal rights and opportunities. His focus on human nature as something that can be changed in particular is powerful indeed. It is easy to find the successful implications of this argument, even in the work of Peterson.
Peterson is more convincing than Owen because he relies on his personal experience and finds support in the theories of Marx and Owen. He spreads a kind of new light on the socialist understanding of human nature, offers to combine hope and rationale to introduce human nature as the cooperation people can develop in order to survive, and proves that socialist understanding of human nature in the 20th century differs considerably from the one given in the 19th century because of the power of society on a person.
Kabbany, J 2016, ‘Socialism-loving professors and their ignorance’, National Review. Web.
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Owen, R 1841, Lectures on the rational system of society, derived solely from nature and experience, The Home Colonization Society, London.
Peterson, A 2005, Socialism and human nature. Web.
Purdy, J 2015, ‘Bernie Sanders’s new deal socialism’, The New Yorker. Web.
Roberts, P & Sutch, P 2012, An introduction to political thought: a conceptual toolkit, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.
Simeon, O 2012, ‘Robert Owen: the father of British socialism?’, Books and Ideas. Web.