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News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) New Ed Edition
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If News from Nowhere seems unfamiliar to most people now, it is perhaps not so much due to its age than to the many successful novels written since that warn of the perils of striving blindly toward some Brave New World ideal. Yet News from Nowhere was itself written partly as a reaction to one such industrial utopia, namely Edward Bellamy's `Looking Backward', and is perhaps more relevant today than at any time since its original publication in 1890. William Morris offers here a prophetic anticipation of the concerns of today's growing environmental and `anti-globalisation' movements.
Although others have presented Morris' ideas as backward and Luddite, such labelling imparts a misleading picture of his views. Indeed, far from being a 'Luddite' Morris was quick to embrace the innovative Jacquard loom in his own workshops - a programmable punch-card system for automated weaving, and one of the precursors of modern computing. The irony inherent in such a label will not be lost on those familiar with the history of the Luddites.
Rather than denouncing technology News from Nowhere sees a world so technologically and socially advanced that it has surpassed any need for the industrial technology of Capital, ably providing for its own happiness and wellbeing without it. Progressive and sustainable technology is woven so seamlessly into its idyllic tapestry that if you were to blink you would easily miss it. And this is exactly the point Morris was making about the appropriate use of technology.Read more ›
It's like a cross between "Rip Van Winkle" and "Gulliver's Travels." William, the hero, goes to sleep in 1890s England (the powerhouse of rapacious Industrialism and Imperialism) and wakes up in a post-2000 England, where Industrialism is gone, and life is like heaven.
How has all this happened? Simple. People have given up the Ethic of Scarcity mentality, which says "Let him who does not work not eat"--which turns life into never-ending toil. And they have turned to an Ethic of "Follow Your Bliss."
This, naturally, has destroyed Industrial (factory) capitalism.
Morris believed that Industrial (factory) Capitalism, with its fierce division of labor and assembly-line techniques--although very efficient--was grotesque and dehumanizing. Like Marx, he believed that such a system turned workers into mere components of the machine--mechanical and highly expendable.
For workers, it made life repetitive and soul-killing (and body-killing) drudgery. And for consumers, it turned out floods of shoddy assembly-line trash--"goods" that were hardly good at all but unesthetic, cheap, throwaways.
Morris realized that Industrialism had traded quality for quantity, and it had given the wrong answer to Jesus' question, "What profiteth it a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
(Sound familiar? It is precisely what we have now.)
He wanted to change all that. And unlike the Marxian socialists, Morris did not see the factory system as inevitable.
He favored a more anarchist type of socialism.Read more ›
Morris' view of that happy future occupies about half of this thick compilation. It is an incredible Eden, where hale, hearty, and lovely people swing into everything with the greatest gusto. Morris' character, the Guest, arrives just when everyone is falling over themselves to row upstream for the privelege of baling hay. Through some Socialist magic, everyone has become beautiful, intelligent, and youthful. In fact Ellen, who takes a shine to the Guest, has such "beauty and cleverness and brightness" (her own words, p.223) that she lives out of town to avoid causing a ruckus among the young bucks there.
Outside of everyone's passion for good, hard labor (with the fear of some future shortage of sweaty work to go around), 'Nowhere' is most notable for the changes it has wrought on the English countryside. Since government no longer serves a Socialist need, the old trappings of power have been torn down. The one exception is the old Parliament building, which now serves as the transfer station between the producers of manure and its consumers - with a clear implication that little has changed.
Exchange of manure is about the most sophisticated social interaction, since Morris declares that "this is not an age of inventions. The last epoch did all that for us," (p.192) and they let more of the old knowledge slip away every year. Instead, his healthy and pastoral people work for love of work, and infuse some vague sense of art into whatever it was they were going on about.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm afraid that with the best will in the world I can't help finding William Morris a bit of a dope. Read morePublished 17 months ago by reading man
This is the required book for the class, buy here can save more money, and get it so fast .Published on February 25, 2014 by fengxiali
It arrived soon enough after I ordered it. I still haven't read it, but I want to get this review request off my notifications, so there you are. Read morePublished on January 8, 2014 by Former Buddhist Monk
Morris published this book in 1890, at the age of 56, six years before his death, just as the Socialist League which he had founded had disintegrated and effectively put an end to... Read morePublished on March 5, 2013 by Ralph Blumenau
It is easy to find great dystopian novels, but I wanted to read an utopian novel. I was a bit disappointed. Read morePublished on September 6, 2012 by osflies
Morris' dream was that the divisions between work, life and art would blur. He believed that industrial consumerism led to toil, inequality, environmental destruction and inferior... Read morePublished on June 24, 2010 by K. Duchmann Jr.