Written during a time in which the current
condition of Europe (1516), was one of conflict perpetuated by the stresses and
corruption which eventually led to the Reformation. Pivotal in that it started
a new literary tradition, Thomas More’s Utopia
depicted an ideal human society. Withal, if we are to enquire into More’s
personal history, it shall soon become apparent that More does not support the
ideals expressed within the novel. For example, his active role in the
persecution of Protestants is contradictory to the advocation of religious
tolerance in Utopia (SparkNotes Editors, 2018). However, it is
prescribed that readers view More’s utilitarian rationale behind Utopia as a
criticism of the current state of Europe during this time. Europe and England
during More’s time were founded upon the economic models of feudalism (Hexter,
1952, p. 58).
Here, peasants supported the lavish and extravagant lifestyles of rich and
powerful nobles. Being an influential and prominent figure during the
Renaissance, it is very plausible that his exposure to Humanism -which
advocated the dignity of man- inspired the ideals expressed within Utopia (SparkNotes Editors, 2018).

 

Even though he doesn’t overtly approve of
some of the themes presented with Utopia,
More truly believed that Utopia was the ‘Best Society’ (Hexter, 1952, p. 57). However, we must remember
that that Utopia was conceptualized as a real place existing within More’s
reality. So, unlike Plato’s Republic -which
purely an imaginative construction- More could not entirely fashion new customs
and laws relative to his interest (Hexter, 1952, p. 50). The themes depicted
within Utopia -whether approved by
More or not- created the ‘Best Society’ in his mind. For example, More’s frugal
defence of ‘Common Property’ is indicative of More not being entirely convinced
by the premise (Hexter, 1952, p. 58). However, in acknowledging
the capitalist aggression during More’s time, it is very plausible that this
and other themes are a manifestation of More’s criticism of the current
condition of his time (Hexter, 1952, p. 48). For More, the social,
political and economic model of the Utopian society is based on natural laws
and reason. More believed that the laws comprised from this basis would result
in the civic virtues of the Utopians. More believed that humans are not virtuous
by nature and that their misdeeds can only eradicated by the abolition of the utility
of money (Hexter, 1952, p. 60). ‘there is nothing
to be paid or exchanged’ (More, 2010, p. 33). Thus, the aim of the laws and customs
on Utopia is to perpetuate ‘man’s natural capacity for good’ (Hexter, 1952, p. 58). This is the
rationale behind the Utopian approach to war.

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Derived from the narrator Raphael
Hythlodaeus’ account of the Utopian approach to warfare, it appears that More
does not agree with said approach. Up until the early sixteenth-century, war
was wage continuously by Europe’s monarchs as a means of property acquisition.
These unvirtuous acts of war resulted in ostensibly peaceful treaties which
accommodated behind-the-scenes negotiations for more money and materials for
said monarchs to engage in further war (McCutcheon, 2015, p. 65). It is plausible
that this corruption meant that Utopia’s inglorious and humane method of waging
war calls on the chivalric code practiced by what More perceived to be the more
idyllic past. Here, More’s Utopian approach to warfare offers an alternative to
the problems ad repression experienced in Europe. By the fifteenth-century, the
chivalric code had long disappeared ad its narrative used to disguise the
brutality of war (McCutcheon, 2015, p. 65). This is not the
only aspect/theme explored within Utopia in which Sir Thomas More himself
overtly agree with. Upon initial inspection, it seems that More was an advocate
for what contemporaries today would label as communism as an alternative for
the then current situation in Europe. However, the basis of More’s criticism of
the Utopian approach to warfare also points his dissent of Utopia’s ‘communal
and moneyless economy’ (McCutcheon, 2015, p. 65). Withal, we must remember
that Utopia is an enquiry into a more
utopian alternative for the current condition of the commonwealth -of Mores
time- by testing problematic themes and topics (McCutcheon, 2015, p. 65).

 

Utopians will only engage in war in order
to protect themselves and/or their friends or to free those who are oppressed. ‘They
go to war only for good reasons’ (More, 2010, p. 66). However, Utopians
despise war and will avoid it at all costs. Their hatred is founded upon their
belief that violence in war is ‘an activity only fit for beasts’ (More,
2010, p. 66).
To them, reason is the only thing which separates man from animal and thus
believe in the use of cunning as a tactic to win wars. For Utopians, it is the
bloodshed and needless suffering -on both sides- induced by direct
attack/violence in war that they want to avoid. Instead, Utopians deploy
cunning tactics which involve propaganda, by secretly putting up flyers in
enemy territory offering handsome rewards for treason from both the public
and/or those of high status (SparkNotes Editors, 2018). And instead of
deploying their own citizens, Utopians are more than willing provide the
finances and materials needed for war (More, 2010, p. 67). Paradoxical to their hatred of war,
the Utopian men and women carry out ‘vigorous military training’ on the daily
should the need for them to engage in conflict as a last resort arrives. To
More, the Utopian method to warfare seems unorthodox and dishonourable. More’s criticism
is based on the basis that their means of going to war is entirely dependent on
their ideal situation which entails that they are isolated and able to produce a
surplus of trade (SparkNotes Editors, 2018). The Utopians could
counteract this by maintaining that they are humane and would rather sacrifice
the glory achieved from battle than their own citizens. For reason is the only
thing which separates man from beast. So, nothing is more glorious than the use
one’s own intellectual rigor to be victorious in war.

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