Summary and Analysis
Book II: The Discourse on Utopia:
In a concluding statement, Hythloday declares his admiration for the Utopian laws and customs. Utopia, he maintains, is not only the best commonwealth but the only true one. His reason for this claim is that in all other nations every man strives to acquire wealth for himself, whereas in Utopia, where there is no private property, every man works for the good of the community. In a country where a man knows he must provide for himself or starve, he is forced to become obsessed with private concerns; but in Utopia, where a man knows that he and his family will be sufficiently provided for so long as the public stores are full, his prime concern will be for the supplying of those stores.
In Utopia, no man owns anything — yet each is rich in the sense that he owns his share of everything. In that situation his lot is most enviable because he lives free from anxieties.
Can anyone defend as just a system in which there are certain people who do no work or who work to create non-essentials that cater to vanities — he is referring to noblemen, bankers, and goldsmiths — should these people live in ease and luxury while those who perform in the necessary labors and provide sustenance for all the rest live in degrading poverty?
All other governments are seen as conspiracies of the rich to keep the common people in subjection. Furthermore, it should be recognized, Hythloday declares, that the elimination of money would have the effect of reducing all manner of conflicts among the population — rivalries, thefts, frauds, murders, treason, and witchcraft.
The teachings of Christ would have implanted the system of the Utopians in every civilized nation if it were not for pride. It is pride that leads a man to make comparisons between his condition and that of another man and that brings him a feeling of satisfaction in recognizing his superiority over his neighbor in property or in show. "This is that infernal serpent that creeps into the breasts of mortals, . . ."
Together with those advantages already noted, the Utopian system offers this added feature: It insures them against insurrection and prevents foreign usurpation. In conclusion, Hythloday exclaims, "Would that all nations would adopt the rule of the Utopians!"
In presenting his final statement, Hythloday focuses his argument in favor of the Utopians on a few major points. The core of their system is the community of property and the elimination of money. Almost everything else that is vital to the system stems from those regulations. Under such conditions the ordinary causes for competition among individuals do not exist, and as a consequence the motivation for many crimes associated with rivalry and greed is effectively eradicated.
The advantages of the Utopian system are here emphasized, as they are so often through the book, by contrasting that system with the laws and customs of contemporary Europe. Competition in European nations is fierce and crime is rife, but a principal source of dissatisfaction is the terrible inequity in the distribution of wealth, especially considering how little the members of the privileged class do to deserve their comforts and luxuries.
As a final recommendation, Hythloday points to the fact that the Utopian way of life conforms to the great principles of Christianity, whereas no such claim could be made for the so-called Christian countries.