Work and leisure in Thomas More’s Utopia 1
DOI link for Work and leisure in Thomas More’s Utopia 1
Work and leisure in Thomas More’s Utopia 1 book
Thomas More is usually presented as an early visionary of a socially just society. More’s famous book Utopia was written as a critique of the social conditions in 16th-century England. Utopian citizens worked six hours a day, yet the motive for this was not greater access to discretionary time but a more egalitarian distribution of work obligations. The Utopians worked 329 days per year and had only 26 days off. A question that has been often raised about More’s Utopia is, to what extent does it express More’s views. Utopia was at least in part an attempt to influence the policies of Henry VIII, to whom More served as an advisor. The question of whether a philosopher should serve the Prince haunted More most of his life. An attempt to do so ran against More’s own warning that a philosopher who will become an adviser to the King will change nothing save precipitate his own downfall. Utopia failed at the personal level as well as an attempt to foster social change. More was sentenced to death by Henry VIII, while Utopians’ regimented life reminds us of the dystopic totalitarian realities of the 20th century. More’s tragic end should not veil, however, the relevancy of his vision of a socially desirable and politically sustainable balance between work and leisure.