A New View of Robert Owen: The Vision and the Visionary
Robert Owen is widely regarded as the founding father of the co-operative movement and a review of its history conveniently starts with him. Well-treated workers would 'effectually co-operate to produce the greatest pecuniary gain to the proprietor'. Owen's answer and solution was that new communities should be started, communities which would be 'Villages of Unity and Mutual Co-operation'. But Owen did think that he was about to change the nature of society, universally and virtually overnight. The vision of a new, benificent society was still to be realised by so training and educating perfectible humanity as to make it perfect in a world where new methods of production would ensure abundance. The vision was of Utopia, the visionary a romantic utilitarian. Also contained within the New Institution were to be a school, lecture room and church, for - and here again comes the recurrent theme - 'education for the untaught and ill-taught becomes of first importance to society'.