Read Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy Online

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First published in 1888, Looking Backward was one of the most popular novels of its day. Translated into more than 20 languages, its utopian fantasy influenced such thinkers as John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, Eugene V. Debs, and Norman Thomas. Writing from a 19th century perspective and poignantly critical of his own time, Bellamy advanced a remarkable vision of the future,First published in 1888, Looking Backward was one of the most popular novels of its day. Translated into more than 20 languages, its utopian fantasy influenced such thinkers as John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, Eugene V. Debs, and Norman Thomas. Writing from a 19th century perspective and poignantly critical of his own time, Bellamy advanced a remarkable vision of the future, including such daring predictions as the existence of radio, television, motion pictures, credit cards, and covered pedestrian malls.On the surface, the novel is the story of time-traveler Julian West, a young Bostonian who is put into a hypnotic sleep in the late 19th century, and awakens in the year 2000 in a socialist utopia. In conversations with the doctor who awakened him, he discovers a brilliantly realized vision of an ideal future, one that seemed unthinkable in his own century. Crime, war, personal animosity, and want are nonexistent. Equality of the sexes is a fact of life. In short, a messianic state of brotherly love is in effect.Entertaining, stimulating, and thought-provoking, Looking Backward, with its ingenious plot and appealing socialism, is a provocative study of human society as it is and as it might be....

Title : Looking Backward
Author :
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ISBN : 9780486290386
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 168 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Looking Backward Reviews

  • Jessica
    2018-10-27 20:18

    In Bellamy’s Boston in the year 2000, many things have changed from how they were in 1887, and the consensus among the book’s characters is that they have changed for the better. I do not imagine many people would argue the merits of the eradication of poverty and war. But when one looks more closely at gender roles, “utopia” becomes a bit more blurry.The fact that women have jobs outside the home is exciting and progressive. However, they are still treated as quite secondary to men. Being “inferior of strength to men, and further disqualified industrially in special ways” women work within an entirely separate labor structure (257). The men discuss it as if the women are playing at work. “Under no circumstances is a woman permitted to follow any employment not perfectly adapted, both as to kind and degree of labor, to her sex” (257). Further discourse shows that rather than seeing women as deserving of work just as they are, men “let them” work as long as it does not interact with their “serious” industry. Dr. Leete says that “they permit them to work at all only because it is fully understood that a certain regular requirement of labor, of a sort adapted to their powers, is well for body and mind” (257). In other words, they permit them to work because it makes them prettier. One sees the condescension even more clearly when Dr. Leete explains, “We have given them a world of their own, with its emulations, ambitions, and careers, and I assure you they are very happy in it” (259). And finally, to see how little society’s respect for women has “progressed,” we learn that their main role and value is still as producers of children. In fact “the higher positions in the feminine army of industry are intrusted only to women who have been both wives and mothers, as they alone fully represent their sex” (261).Perhaps this is a challenge that no utopian writer has yet conquered: creating a society that everyone thinks is utopian. In Bellamy’s future society, Dr. Leete explains that “we have nothing to make laws about. The fundamental principles on which our society is founded settle for all time the strifes and misunderstandings which in your day called for legislation” (208). Even if we concede that the elimination of money and personal property would obviate many laws, how can we be convinced that there are no legal or moral issues on which people disagree?The yearning to create a perfect society has captured many artists, and will no doubt continue to do so. But who decides what is perfect, much less what is better? Who defines progress?

  • Debbie Zapata
    2018-11-16 17:22

    This was another Literary Birthday challenge title, and the last one I will be able to complete for March. Edward Bellamy was born on March 26, 1850. This book was published in 1888 and according to the GR author bio was third in popularity behind Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ. Bellamy takes the Rip Van Winkle idea and cranks it up a few notches. Our hero Julian goes to sleep in Boston one night in 1887 and wakes up in a most unusual place: Boston in the year 2000. The main body of the story revolves around his host (a doctor who brought him safely to a waking state) sharing all the new and glorious details with Julian in the first week of being a citizen of this brave but strange new world.Apparently back in its day, this book was seen as THE blueprint for a utopian society. I was more than a little disturbed by the way the year 2000 was managed, though. Julian asked my questions (most of them) pretty much right after I thought of them myself but he accepted the answers without digging much deeper. I kept saying "Yeah, but what about....?" And of course I got no answers at all.In his talks with the doctor, Julian learns that the nation itself is now the provider of everything a man needs, that there is compulsory education to the age of 21, and compulsory service in the 'industrial army' from then till age 45 (with the first three years of that being in the unskilled sector, then you get to decide where you want to work for the rest of your productive time). After age 45 a man gets to have his time for himself. No money, no taxes, no debt, no servant crisis, no crime, no this no that. On one hand it sounds wonderful. But then there's that other hand....For one thing it took until Chapter 25 of 28 before Julian asked about the role of women in the year 2000. And then part of the answer was this: "We have given them a world of their own, with its emulations, ambitions, and careers, and I assure you they are very happy in it." I wanted to smack that doctor upside the head more during Chapter 25 than at any other time in the book.This was a vehicle for Bellamy's vision of society more than anything else. I would like to read some other title of his, just to see what his plain old everyday novels are like. I was torn about the rating here. It was interesting to see the ideas he proposed and to debate with him, but I kept expecting more story and less soapbox. And he very nearly lost all of his stars with his final chapter, but luckily he switched gears again right at the end and did not finish his book 'Dallas' style after all. (You know....it was all just a dream).

  • Jonathan-David Jackson
    2018-10-28 19:34

    As a novel, this book isn't much. That isn't a mark against it, though - the story serves as a light frame to build an explanation of socialism around, and it does that very well.Looking Backward is the best and clearest way I have ever seen socialism presented (although that is not hard, since I have never seen socialism presented in any light other than a negative one), and in almost every way it seems better than capitalism. It raises questions in me that I have never had occasion to consider. Why, indeed, should we not all work together? Why should one have so much more than another, when all people are created equal? Why waste so much manpower and economic power with endless duplication of enterprise? Why should many of us live under constant threat of poverty and hunger, when the good earth is rich, and can support us all equally? Five hundred million people live in poverty in Africa, one of the poorest regions on Earth. Two hundred million in China. Fifteen million in the United Kingdom. Forty million people live in poverty even in America, the richest nation on Earth. This past year the people on the Forbes 400 list have accumulated an additional two hundred billion dollars ($200,000,000,000), while at the same time median family income in America dropped by 4 percent.After reading this book, perhaps I might call myself a socialist.----For thirty years I had lived among them, and yet I seemed to have never noted before how drawn and anxious were their faces, of the rich as of the poor, the refined, acute faces of the educated as well as the dull masks of the ignorant. And well it might be so, for I saw now, as never before I had seen so plainly, that each as he walked constantly turned to catch the whispers of a spectre at his ear, the spectre of Uncertainty. "Do your work never so well," the spectre was whispering, - "rise early and toil till late, rob cunningly or serve faithfully, you shall never know security. Rich you may be now and still come to poverty at last. Leave never so much wealth to your children, you cannot buy the assurance that your son may not be the servant of your servant, or that your daughter will not have to sell herself for bread."

  • Jon(athan) Nakapalau
    2018-11-12 13:18

    A book that has been stranded on the "island of forgotten classics" for far too long. Foreshadowing many of the technological advancements we take for granted this is a look back that will also provide a vantage point for looking forward as we are all caught in the ebb and flow of technoethics and technoetics.

  • Riley
    2018-10-27 18:25

    As a historic work, this isn't without interest. As a piece of art, it reads more like a lecture from someone who can't stop pontificating. Edward Bellamy was trying to craft ideas for the perfect society, but it is hard to stomach in a post-Freud, post World War-I and -II and post-Soviet Union world. I'll take an anti-utopian novel like 1984 any day.

  • Alex
    2018-11-15 18:36

    Proto-scifi utopian snoozefest Looking Backward was a blockbuster hit in 1887 - according to Wikipedia "the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur." This is mystifying because it's basically a boring socialist tract. (For context: I am a socialist. It is frustrating to me that most socialist books suck.)Does it then really seem to you that human nature is insensible to any motives save fear of want and love of luxury, that you should expect security and equality of livelihood to leave them without possible incentives to effort? (63) Unfortunately, it turns out that the answer to this question is yes.Falling into the standard trap of utopianists, merrily pretending that people are terrific because that's the only way utopias work, Bellamy mentions that all prisons have disappeared, those few "criminal" elements left consigned to asylums...but then, "A man able to duty, and persistently refusing, is sentenced to solitary imprisonment on bread and water till he consents" (83) - one of the book's very few hints at the dangers of an essentially totalitarian society. (While elections happen, the elected officials are allowed to do very little.)There's little plot and no characterization, and also almost zero accurate forecasting of the future. It's credited (har!) with inventing credit cards, but they bear zero resemblance to actual credit cards so I'm not buying that (haw!). Bellamy imagines the future economy with great, mind-numbing detail, but it doesn't occur to him that music or art might have changed in the slightest. He's prescient on one front, though. He imagines a future where publishing is entirely egalitarian: anyone who wants to can write a book, and if enough people like it then it gets published. We're totally doing that now, and it's working out great!This is not a very good book.

  • J. Dunn
    2018-10-25 15:31

    Man, what a crappy socialist utopia. Americans would figure out how to make a socialist utopia as saccharine and colorless and authoritarian as possible, wouldn't we?So, I read this out of historical interest, because it was a landmark work in American leftism, sold millions of copies in the 1890's, etc. I kinda wanted to know what got early American leftists excited. Evidently, it was very-thinly-novelized half-informed hectoring about proto-Marxist political economy. He sketched just barely enough of his utopian future to force the medicine down. For a supposed seminal work of scifi futurism, there's just no imagination at all... he even goes so far as to kinda just give up and make his year 2000 Boston look almost exactly like his 1887 Boston, just with less squalor and more monumental architecture. There are a few futurist stabs at what the society and technology of tomorrow would look like, but they're all ancillary and don't seem to have much at all to do with his political and economic vision. I don't know how anyone could have possibly read this for entertainment.And what he does sketch out is not very appealing. He had a big hardon for organizing things on a military footing, and his utopia is awfully authoritarian. The results he posits seem pretty ok, but the means of getting to them are either implausible or would likely preclude those results. And everything is annoyingly, Socratically just-so. And then to top it all off he has the temerity to throw in a totally cloying, shallow, and implausible romance, topped off with a gratuitous double-twist ending, just to mess with us.Ok, ok, I shouldn't be so hard on him. This guy was essentially an amateur, trying to find the best way he could to expound his political ideas to a large audience. And obviously, it worked. I just can't believe this had such broad appeal. Americans must have been absolutely starving for good socialist agitprop back in the populist era. I had hoped it would be interesting on its own terms, but it's really only worth reading as a curiosity of historical and political interest, and barely at that.

  • Lorna
    2018-10-26 15:23

    This is a great book about a man from 1887 who finds himself in the year 2000. It was actually written in 1887 and the author, Edward Bellamy actually predicts some things such as radio and credit cards. In the year 2000 he finds that all social class differences have been erased and there is a Utopian society. I thought his view of what the year 2000 would be like was fascinating and some of his ideas of how to implement a Utopian society were thought provoking. This is one of my favorite books.

  • Sarah
    2018-10-17 14:37

    Started off hopeful, but ended leaving me wanting more.This is the story of Julian West, a man from the year 1887 who falls into a trance and wakes up in the year 2000. It basically provides an outline for the makings of a perfect society, which, in the novel, is exactly what is created in the year 2000. Dr. Leete is basically the spokesperson for this new society, which by the way is a very radical version of Socialism. Leete explains to Julian the industrial workforce, and all of the inner-workings of the "new and improved" United States of America.It was very cool to see how much emphasis was placed on learning within the society; everyone was encouraged and had a chance to get higher education because there were no social/economical barriers holding anyone down. If everyone makes the same salary, everyone is entitled to the same things. In some ways the novels was very persuasive, but in other ways it fell short.For instance, I have to bring up women's place in this utopian society. Now, if the book had chosen to leave women out altogether, I would not even be making this argument, but the way in which women are brought up is offensive. I think if authors choose to throw in additional characters, even if they're out of his/her writing comfort zone, they need to be dealt with and verified just as the other characters are. Otherwise, leave the novel/story on a smaller scale to avoid disappointment from the audience. Toward the end of the book, like in the last 50 pages, Bellamy has the protagonist Julian West ask a random question (the question that I'd been wondering if he'd ever address) regarding women in the society. He asks something like, "just what to women do?" Up to that point, the women in the novel were not discussed as having jobs. There was an emphasis on the amount of leisure they enjoyed, but not much else. To my surprise, Bellamy says the women are in the industrial workforce just like the men. It was surprising to me because he brought up the industrial workforce and all of its inner-workings (THOROUGHLY) on like page 15 of the book. He went into great depth and detail having Leete explain it all, and yet he chooses to mention women's position as a random afterthought that made no sense to the flow of the book. I pictured Bellamy sitting down writing this somewhere and thinking "oh gosh! I left out the women!" and then scribbling a quick explanation to avoid holes in his socialist America. I could go into much greater detail regarding the way in which they were represented, but I'd be writing a 15 page review!Additionally, there is no place for globalization or immigration in this new America. The book constantly goes back and forth from 1887 to 2000 to emphasize the great strife of the 19th century and how the future of America was so bright and perfect. There was so much talk of social inequality, and yet not once did Bellamy mention the turmoil created by RACIAL inequality in the United States of America in 1887. About 30 years since the Civil War, and that's not something the deserves discussing? And that's not something that was resolved with this new and "perfect America" in the year 2000?I don't know. I want to give this book credit for its persuasive abilities, but the ending (last 100 pages or so) really threw me for a curveball and I started to become annoyed with Bellamy's lack of forethought on some of the issues he addressed.

  • erforscherin
    2018-10-28 17:21

    When the popular bookshelves are filled with dystopias as far as the eye can see, sometimes it's nice to try the opposite perspective. And though most utopian works tend to age badly, Bellamy's actually seems to get better with age, because it was both incredibly far-sighted for its time and best of all, still feels like it might just be achievable.The frame story is mostly for show: our protagonist goes to sleep in 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000 to a completely-changed world. The Industrial Revolution draws many parallels to our current "99%" protests, of course: too many people working in deplorable conditions to benefit only a select few at the top. But in this timeline, the workers united to create a new, more equal society - and that's where the truly interesting ideas show up.It's a shame that Bellamy has been largely forgotten today, because there's a lot here that's still clever, and still relevant. A strong sense of duty and personal honor is the thread which binds his society together, and jobs-wise results in something like the French "glow-worms" system: the most hazardous or unpleasant jobs provide the greatest honor when performed, and become something desirable instead. And, equally, work is the realm of the young, who are most fiercely competitive for that honor: retirement age comes relatively early so that new generations of young people can move into those positions, and the older ones into other methods of contributing to society, including creative pursuits and mentoring the young. Bellamy describes all of this in much more detail (perhaps overwhelmingly so), but it's a solid premise, and an intriguing one.For fans of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and other early science-fiction authors, the technology described here will be a small delight: Bellamy's rapturous vision of distant orchestras that can be heard at the touch of a button is, of course, today's mundane radio; and it's no real stretch to interpret his description of the elaborate warehouse and shipping system for clothes and fabrics as online shopping, one hundred years before its time. What imagination!I consider this book to be one of the small, forgotten gems among the classics, and can't recommend it enough. If you can look past the occasional long-winded sermon (both figurative and, on one occasion, literal), there's a lot of good ideas, and a lot more to think about. Especially on the subjects of politics and economics, Looking Backward remains remarkably timely - if nothing else, perhaps only to remind us that our present-day troubles are just a variation on a much older theme, and that hope for better solutions is still out there.

  • Daniel
    2018-10-17 15:15

    in the year 2000, humanity will enjoy harmony, happiness and worldwide peace in a universal socialist utopia, and this is how we will fall in love:"In her face, pity contended in a sort of divine spite against the obstacles which reduced it to impotence. Womanly compassion surely never wore a guise more lovely. Such beauty and such goodness quite melted me, and it seemed that the only fitting response... was just to tell her the truth.... I had no fear that she would be angry. She was too pitiful for that.... 'Don't you see that it is because I have been mad enough to love you?' At my last words she blushed deeply and her eyes fell before mine.... Then blushing deeper than ever, but with a dazzling smile, she looked up. 'Are you sure it is not you who are blind?' she said.... 'If I am beside myself," I cried, "let me remain so!' 'It is I whom you must think beside myself," she panted, escaping from my arms when I had barely tasted the sweetness of her lips. 'Oh! Oh!'"blah. this schlock survived the turn of the century just because bellamy managed to predict the credit card?...okay, that's not fair. It survived because it profoundly affected the generation to which it spoke, and because it inspired countless political awakenings in people like Eugene Debs who would go on to shape the American progressive movement in the new century. However, it was perhaps so effective in part because, as the above passage illustrates, it spoke the language of its generation, a lexicon not terribly effective today. As a result, it's useful in exploring the mood and sensibility of a restless, hopeful, frustrated 19th century America, but not likely to inspire any new revolutions from our own generation.

  • Justin
    2018-10-26 17:36

    Forget Nostradamus--Bellamy predicted shopping malls, credit cards and cars in his fictitious time-traveling story written in 1887 and looking forward to the year 2000 ("In the Year Two-Thousaaaannnnndddd....in the Year Two-ThousAAAAANNNNDDDD!")While some of his more optimistic and Utopian fantasies aren't realized by modern society and Bellamy's writing drags a bit in places, it's fun and carefree without the bitter aftertaste of 1984 or Brave New World looming over like storm clouds.

  • Christy
    2018-10-27 16:23

    Edward Bellamy's socialist utopian novel Looking Backward tells the story of a Boston man who is placed in a mesmeric trance in 1887 and awakens in the year 2000. While he was entranced, the United States and much of the world has undergone major transformations, chiefly in economic and social organization. Most of the book is exposition, as the protagonist, Julian West, learns about the new, improved Boston from his rescuer, Dr. Leete. The Boston of the future is a utopia of organization, equality, and freedom. A very small portion of the novel is dedicated to putting this exposition in the context of an actual plot, in which Julian West falls in love (it's not very compelling). The ideas Bellamy puts forth in this novel are interesting, both for his contemporaries and for myself. Looking Backward was a bestseller in its time, following only Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur in popularity. People organized societies to discuss and try to put his ideas into practice, utopian communities were founded based on his principles, and several major thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th century were influenced by the ideas of Bellamy's novel. For myself, I am drawn to the anti-capitalist rhetoric of the book and its concern with social equality. He builds his argument on the idea of the brotherhood of man, saying, through the voice of Dr. Leete, "Every man, however solitary may seem his occupation, is a member of a vast industrial partnership, as large as the nation, as large as humanity. The necessity of mutual dependence should imply the duty and guarantee of mutual support" (105). Furthermore, he continues, "the solidarity of the race and the brotherhood of man, which to you were but fine phrases, are, to our thinking and feeling, ties as real and as vital as physical fraternity" (106). Given this, the Boston of the 19th century must be seen in terms of horror and death. During one venture into 1887 Boston, West says,"Presently, too, as I observed the wretched beings about me more closely, I perceived that they were all quite dead. Their bodies were so many living sepulchres. On each brutal brow was plainly written the hic jacet of a soul dead within. As I looked, horror struck, from one death's head to another, I was affected by a singular hallucination. Like a wavering translucent spirit face superimposed upon each of these brutish masks I saw the ideal, the possible face that would have been the actual if mind and soul had lived. . . . Therefore now I found upon my garments the blood of this great multitude of strangled souls of my brothers. The voice of their blood cried out against me from the ground. Every stone of the reeking pavements, every brick of the pestilential rookeries, found a tongue and called after me as I fled: What has thou done with thy brother Abel?" (266).Bellamy's description of the inequalities of the 19th century are the most interesting and vivid part of the book; his descriptions of the utopia of 2000 are not only less interesting and vivid (utopias are generally hard to bring to life anyway) but in some crucial ways unappealing. Although the idea of the brotherhood of man and the equality that concretizing this brotherhood brings really appeals to me, the particulars of this society are troubling in their insistent uniformity, apparent authoritarianism, and nationalism. All neighborhoods look the same, the government has absorbed all private interests, and the "national party" aims to "justify patriotism and raise it from an instinct to a rational devotion, by making the native land truly a father land, a father who kept the people alive and was not merely an idol for which they were expected to die" (207). Apparently, I am more of an anarchist than I thought (speaking of which, Bellamy dismisses anarchism as a mere tool of capitalism, a way to keep real reform from occurring).Another element of Bellamy's utopian future that is both promising and troubling is the place of women in society. On the one hand, he makes an argument for freer personal relationships and the inclusion of women in the workplace, which is a really positive move for an author of the 1880s; on the other hand, however, he manages to remain firmly entrenched in traditional ideas about gender, including separate spheres for men and women and the concepts of women as simultaneously weaker and better than men. Dr. Leete explains that of course women work, just as men do; in fact, he says, they "have a women general-in-chief and are under exclusively feminine regime" and "the hours of women's work are considerably shorter than those of men's, more frequent vacations are granted, and the most careful provision is made for rest when needed. The men of this day so well appreciate that they owe to the beauty and grace of women the chief zest of their lives and their main incentive to effort, that they permit them to work at all only because it is fully understood that a certain regular requirement of labor, of a sort adapted to their powers, is well for body and mind, during the period of maximum physical vigor" (210). He continues in this vein, saying, "We have given them a world of their own, with its emulations, ambitions, and careers, and I assure you they are very happy with it" (211). Despite the weakness and separateness this reveals, and despite the condescension that appears to still come from men, women in this utopia "have risen to the full height of their responsibility as the wardens of the world to come, to whose keeping the keys of the future are confided. Their feeling of duty in this respect amounts to a sense of religious consecration. It is a cult in which they educate their daughters from childhood" (220). Together with Bellamy's statements that "women who have been both wives and mothers . . . alone fully represent their sex" (213) and that "it is in giving full play to the differences of sex rather than in seeking to obliterate them, as was apparently the effort of some reformers in your day, that the enjoyment of each by itself and the piquancy which each has for the other, are alike enhanced" (211), this statement about women's responsibility and religious consecration looks ahead to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's glorification of motherhood and women's society in Herland, another major American utopian text that links socialism and a form of feminism.

  • Jeroen
    2018-11-05 19:40

    I started reading Edward Bellamy's classic utopian novel Looking Backward on a three-hour train ride back home. It was night, dark outside, and my eyes flitted from the screen of my e-reader to the dark void outside and back. I like to peer out at the towns the train passes so furtively, reduced by speed, distance and time of day to a few lights strewn across the landscape. When I sit in a train and look outside, I cannot help but turn into the stereotypical dreamy passenger. The reflective surface of the window seems to positively invite reflection.The plot of Looking Backward is extremely straightforward. A man, Josiah West, who suffers from insomnia has a soundproof basement bedroom made for him, and uses mesmerism to fall asleep. One night as he does so the house above him catches fire, in which the servant who was supposed to wake him perishes, and he ends up sleeping for days and months and years and decades until finally, in 2000, the chamber is found and he steps into the future (in perfect health).It's a bit much to call Looking Backward a novel, and I think it would probably be more appreciated by modern audiences if it were considered as a document capturing the spirit of the times in which it was written, the political turmoil of the fin-de-siècle. Most of it is filled with tedious harangues comparing Bellamy's brightly lit future with the horrors of the present (isn't the present always, as if almost by default, horrible?). It's telling, too, that in his explanations Bellamy largely glosses over how the utopian society came to be (he offers a vague explanation of businesses conglomerating until they just become one state-run “company” and talks of one unlikely angelic generation which “laid aside the social traditions and practices of barbarians, and assumed a social order worthy of rational and human beings”). While there are many holes to poke in Bellamy's collectivist society anyway, and history has already taken care of deflating those dreams, it still strikes me that it is a far easier job to describe a spurious perfect society than to describe how we can get there.For all its optimism, Bellamy's future reads to me like one of those modernist nightmares of eerie perfection. It makes me uncomfortable perhaps precisely because it would be well-nigh heavenly – the “uncanny valley” version of heaven. It reminds me of an apt description of Facebook I recently read: “Like a New Urbanist dream neighborhood where every lamppost and shrub seems unnervingly designed to please you, there's a soullessness about the place. The software's primary attributes - its omniscience, its solicitousness – all too easily provoke claustrophobia. Bellamy's futuristic inhabitants opined that “it would be considered an extraordinary imbecility to permit the weather to have any effect on the social movements of the people.” In this sense he certainly seems prescient, because I reckon many people feel that way, and we certainly live in a society in which being comfortably numb is something to strive for. But me personally, I'd rather just get soaked every once in a while. All throughout Looking Backward, I am reminded of Raoul Vaneigem's slogan: “Down with a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation has been purchased with the guarantee that we will die of boredom.”Still, “hindsight is better than foresight”, as Bellamy himself remarks, and it is all too easy to look back and say that he was wrong and/or naïve. What touched me, staring out of that train window, was that I was reading the words of a dreamer of more than a century ago, and that his dreams were still pure. I could all too easily imagine Bellamy, in overly formal 19th century garments, sitting in his padded room, looking out over gray, gray England, pondering better days ahead. It is the same beautiful optimism that is written all over the various art movements of the early 20th century; a belief that better times were to come, if we could only get our act together. And here I was, a 21st century dreamer, and I couldn't believe in any of that. Maybe that's just me, but I'm not so sure. Habermas once wrote of an “exhaustion of utopian energies” in our age. Utopias just don't seem very fruitful in these times of effectivity and rationality. These are hard times for dreamers. They will have to dream back first, to the age of Bellamy, in order to dream forward again with the same gusto our forefathers had.STRANGERI should be a fool not to know that I cannot seem to you as other men of your own generation do, but as some strange uncanny being, a stranded creature of an unknown sea, whose forlornness touches your compassion despite its grotesqueness."- Edward Bellamy, Looking BackwardBut what touched me most of all, despite the fact that the plot here is like a footnote to the politics, is the horrible predicament and fate of the story's protagonist. He becomes, as Dutch author Hella Haasse phrased it, “forever a stranger”, homeless in mind if not in body. Both the future Boston he ambles through wide-eyed and his own Boston whose social order now repulses him are ultimately beyond him.and I can't remember if I read or dreamed about them-a sect on the Mayflower called the Strangers-four or five adults who gathered in the holdand spoke to no one through the three month passage.When the boats landed on the beachthey walked into the North American forestand were never seen again.- David Berman, “World: Series”

  • Dean Summers
    2018-10-24 19:16

    Edward Bellamy is a distant relative of a friend of mine. Until my friend sent me a link to a Wikipedia article about Uncle Ed, I’d never heard of him. But I thought I’d take a look at one of his books, which I was to learn was one of the most popular, most influential books of late Nineteenth and early Twentieth-Century America. Indeed, all over America it spawned Bellamy clubs devoted to promoting Edward Bellamy’s social theories.Looking Backward was written in 1887. By the magic of imagination, it looks backward onto 1887 from the year 2000. It anticipates, for America and for the greater part of the world, a workers’ paradise that arrives, not by violence, but by the good common sense of people everywhere who, when the time is ripe, give in to the irresistible force of social evolution.For me, part of the fun of the book was the way it sometimes resonated, sometimes clashed, with four other works: Plato’s The Republic, Voltaire’s Candide, Marx’ The Communist Manifesto, and Skinner’s Walden II.In Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy is by turn clairvoyant (he anticipates the credit card, electronic home entertainment, and a Walmart-style shopping center), incisive (his critique of capitalism is on target), quaint (he imagines that all Americans will eventually adopt the fashions, the manners, and the values of the Nineteenth-Century American privileged class), naïve (he believes you can end human rivalry by eliminating the perceived need for rivalry), chauvinistic (his view of women is of sugar and spice and everything nice), pedantic (he has given us one talkie book!), sweet (he breaks up the talk with the story of a budding romance), and engaging (for all the talk, and for all the odd little quirks, he keeps you reading).But, most of all, from the perspective of the actual, factual Twenty-First Century, in Looking Backward, Bellamy is profoundly disturbing. By Bellamy’s reckoning, there should never have been a Great War, but there was. There should never have been a Russian Revolution, but there was. There should never have been a Great Depression, or a Second World War, or the atrocities of National Socialism, or any such, year after year after year. There should never have been a Stalin, or a Hitler, or a Mao, or any of their ilk, year after year after year. But there have been. So, why? That it so urgently raises that one question is why Looking Backward remains relevant this side of the year 2000.

  • Carly
    2018-11-10 18:21

    In college, I took a class on Political Literature--a class designed to expose political and historical thoughts and feelings through literature. This would have been an excellent addition to such a class's curriculum, as I feel it is more political commentary disguised as fiction than it is fiction about politics.Looking Backward is the story of a man who goes to sleep in 1887 Boston, and wakes up in 2000 Boston. (It is fiction, remember so this kind of jump can happen.) He awakens and learns of the incredible advancements society has made. Indeed every person is cared for, every person works, there are no poor, there are no crimes. The president serves 1 five year term (after being voted in my the army), and Congress meets but once every few years--and really doesn't make any new laws. Every man and woman is taken care of, given the same amount of 'credit' (money is a bad term, but it is essentially the same thing--a card that gets the same amount put onto it every month, and it isn't allowed to accumulate) regardless of how much they work or what they do. The genders are equal. People seem happy. While it sounds like socialism, Bellamy is clear on this point: it is not. In fact it is capitalism. Extreme capitalism not in the way of Freidman and his associates, but capitalism in that everyone in the nation (and all nations by this point are run this way because it just makes more sense) works for one company--the nation. The county produces everything, and everyone gets an equal share. If there are certain types of work that are harder than others, those occupations work less hours. An interesting look into how the evolution of capitalism does not have to mean only a few at the top succeeding, but in fact, the evolution and support of us all.

  • Elçin Buket
    2018-10-28 19:15

    19. yüzyılın iğrençliğini, 21. yüzyılda yaşıyor olsakta hala o igrencligin devam ettigini gösteren çok güzel bir ütopyaydı. 20. yüzyılı kurgulayan bir ütopya oluşu ve 21. yüzyıla gelmiş olsak dahi değisen hiçbir şeyin olmaması çok üzücü. 1880lerden beri değişen hiçbir şey yok, hala sefalet hala açlık hala savaşlar hala birbirlerinin kuyusunu kazıp zenginleşmeye çalışan bir ton insan.

  • Hayden
    2018-10-23 14:26

    Boy, Bellamy was idealistic. Of course, I have the advantage of truly "Looking Backward": the year 2000, in which this book takes place, was eighteen years ago. Bellamy's 1887 predictions, therefore, seem utterly implausible and laughably optimistic, although I also offer my opinion that his blueprint for utopia is also horrendously unattractive and restricting.Even though I have the privilege of living in his future, I don't think a lot of my issues with the book depend on my "futuristic" knowledge: it's very, very easy to find holes in Bellamy's reasoning. For instance, in this new world, jails are obsolete because there is no temptation to commit crime, as everyone has the same opportunities and wealth. There are only hospitals for those, like kleptomaniacs, for whom crime is a mental illness. Yet this reasoning completely neglects other aspects of human nature- jealousy in relationships, for example. You might have the same wealth as your neighbor, but you can't exactly have his wife. After all, how many murders today are committed, not due to economic sources, but marital and romance-related ones? I can't imagine a world like his that is not without some corruption; we as humans always want more. We fight about politics, religion, and other differences of opinion, and a socialistic, "equal" society simply cannot get rid of that, unless it lulls us all with mind-numbing drugs or something. Basically, what I'm saying is this book is frustrating because it makes you want to get into an ultimately pointless argument about politics and human nature with a man who has been dead for over a hundred years, and whose hope for 2000s society has already been proven wrong by time. The book does get an extra star for imagination, although my firm anti-socialist stance aside, it would still get points off for having basically no plot. But hey, if you're looking for a 19th century work that, while obscure now, was hugely (and perhaps weirdly?) popular and influential on political thought (it even led to a new American political party!), then this book is at least worth reading for its historical merit.

  • sdw
    2018-10-31 12:45

    Julian West was an insomniac. Unable to sleep, he used his wealth to construct a fabulous sound-proof light-proof underground bedroom that only his servant Sawyer knew about. He hired an animal mangetist to put him to sleep with the understanding that he would be awakened by Sawyer in the morning. Unfortunately his house burned down in the middle of the night. No one awakened him. He was safe in the room that no one knew about but was presumed dead. One-hundred and thirteen years later, a man doing construction on the grounds of his old home found him and awakened him.This highly influential novel is the quintessential utopian vision. Julian West awakens to socialism in the year 2000. Most of the novel consists of him asking Dr. Leete, the man who found him, “How does shopping happen now?” “Who goes to college now?” and hearing long answers. It sounds dreadfully boring but I was captivated. Reading this novel allowed me to see its power and better grapple with its influence.This is not a socialist utopia as one would imagine it now. It is shockingly centralized and lacks democracy. The special role of those with particular talents for the arts reminded me vaguely and uncomfortably of Ayn Rand, even as Bellamy conceived of all men and women as aspiring towards a greatness of spirit with a lifetime love of learning and passion for the arts. Since men and women retire at 45 and remain fully supported by the state for the duration, they have time to grow in their own means. Work in the industrial army (for there is no other army) is the greatest service to the state. Life stands still. It is so perfect that congress needs to make no laws. Conditions do not change. The industrial army is regulated, prices are regulated, but nothing really changes. Societal stasis has been achieved. Women can work. But the highest respect is given to women who have been both mothers and wives. Women work easier jobs with more vacation time than army. They are not part of the regular industrial army but have their own auxiliary branch. Men worship women’s role as the caretakers of the world so much that men only allow women to work because it is mentally and emotionally good for every human to have a job. This is a vision embracing older troubled notions of respecting women, based on a gender binary and with no interest in true equality. I found this fascinating rather than troubling, due to its year of publication and wide influence. Oh, and the novel is told with the superficial frame of a silly unengaging love story.

  • Orion
    2018-11-02 12:43

    Looking Backward, while written over 120 years ago, is about what the author envisioned the 21st century could have been like if the USA had embraced Socialist principles. Very popular when it was written (right up there with Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur), it is about a young 19th century upper class white man's surprising re-introduction to society when he wakes up from a 113 year nap at the dawn of the 21st century. Similar to Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and Woody Allen's Sleeper in plot structure but told without parody or humor, in Looking Backward the world has changed dramatically while our hero slept.Bellamy's hero is awakened by a retired doctor and his wife and daughter when they find him sleeping in a chamber under their garden. This family slowly introduces him to the wonders of a modern Socialist state where the nation is the only employer and the people's army works for the common good. Each chapter explores a different aspect of this modern cooperative society. Chapter 15 describes Bellamy's vision of the future of publishing, 16 discusses art, 19 is devoted to law, and 20 to education. The ideas are mostly presented through dialogs with the doctor with few actual visits and interactions. Economic progress is stressed over technological change.Written before the Great Depression, Communism, National Socialism, two World Wars and the Holocaust, Bellamy's book blames much of the world's problems on social inequality and the pursuit of personal gain. He envisions the United States leading the world into a just brotherhood where humans work together for the common good. It is interesting to read today Bellamy's vision of looking back from an alternative world that never came into being although fervently desired by many at the time. For Bellamy and his readers the enemy was Capitalism and salvation was to be had in Communism and National Socialism. He envisions a world where these ideas were embraced by the USA instead of Stalin and Hitler and led to a Utopian society.

  • Mary JL
    2018-11-11 12:19

    I listed this under fiction. It is also considered by some 'science fiction" but actually, there is very little of interest to the sf fan here.Basically, after 113 years sleeping, our hero wakes up in a future Boston, and the books lectures at length on Bellamy's idea of social and political utopia.I read it becase of its historical listing as an early attempt at science fiction, and found it very slow moving indeed. Quite dated; quite shallow and lots of economic and political chit chat with very little story.If you are interested in early sf or utopian books, you might try it but it is not really very interesting at all.

  • El
    2018-10-17 13:22

    Julian West falls into a hypnosis-induced sleep in 1887 and wakes up in the same place (Boston, MA), but in the year 2000. Living in the home now is Dr. Leete and his wife, and their lovely daughter, Edith. As Julian tries to accept his new reality, the Leetes offer their assistance by explaining the changes which have occurred since Julian first went to sleep in the late nineteenth century. The result is a utopian novel written in 1888, well ahead of its time. Bellamy suggests a socialist society much altered from what Julian experienced in his own day. Bellamy had an idea of a credit card on which every person is allotted the same amount annually. As everyone is paid the same there is no risk of competition in or outside of the workplace, and as everyone retires by the age of 45 there is plenty of time a person is able to live within whatever means one wishes. Men and women are on a more equal playing field, though Bellamy was unable to shake the common stereotypes of his time - in 2000 his women still loved to shop, though the difference is that in 2000 there are not a variety of shops to peruse: There are warehouses in which samples are shown, and each warehouse is identical so there is no option of shopping for better quality or prices; once a choice of an item is made in the warehouse it is sent directly to the patron's home, significantly cutting down on the middleman of consumerism.Bellamy also had the foresight to predict somewhat of a radio on which music and sermons may be played at any of time of the day, removing the requirement of needing to leave ones home in order to listen to classical music or forced to go to church.While I enjoyed the theories Bellamy suggested in 1888, the way he wrote his novel sometimes felt a little too self-guidey in that he made his ideas too heavy-handed, almost preachy. Still, his ideas were good and we would probably benefit from making some of the changes suggested in his book. As mentioned in the introduction positive changes were made by some of Bellamy's contemporaries (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Upton Sinclair, etc.), so it may not be such a longshot to put to practice some of his imaginings.I wanted to read this book much faster than I did. I had it with me on our trip but, like many novels written in the late 1800s, it can be exceptionally wordy which made reading on trains and in sporadic moments difficult.

  • Luke
    2018-11-02 20:16

    One may easily, and with just reason, I think, quickly "slough off" Looking Backward as a rather mediocre, banal utopian novel employing a rather kitschy love story. Further, I find that Looking Backward does not satisfy me as a piece of political theory; indeed, Bellamy writes with far too many presumptions and hand-waves in order for Looking Backward to qualify as such. However, I still find Looking Backward a worthwhile read. First of all, and the weaker reason, I think, Looking Backward sold hugely after its publication at the close of the 19th century and the beginning 20th. Thus, it perhaps retains some sort of historical value. However, I find value more so because it transcended my expectations; I see Looking Backward belonging to some sort of perhaps undefined class: somewhere between quasi-fiction and quasi-political theory. In sum, the reader looking strictly for 'good' literature, or perhaps "high-brow" literature and the reader looking for a thorough treatise on the philosophy of socialism should perhaps look elsewhere for these needs. Looking Backward does, however, present an ideal, socialistic society in an accessible manner, with a rather silly love story to lighten the dialogues. I recommend reading Looking Backward if exploring the aforementioned gray area seems intriguing.

  • Bukk
    2018-11-09 14:35

    This might be the dumbest book I’ve ever read. I respect and understand what Bellamy was trying to do, but for mercy of the reader, don’t try to deliver something like this in a fictional setting if you’re not going to bother making your characters anything more than endlessly chattering names without agency or thought or reflection or personality, who only recite the philosophy of the writer. And don't make it fiction if you don’t have a plot or a story or action or development of some basic activity or any of the things that make fiction worth reading. The philosophy, as stupid as it already is, was delivered in the most heavy-handed and tiresome way possible. Mr. Bellamy would have benefited from making this a pamphlet or a newsletter. Making a one dimensional, boring world out of this dry philosophy was a horrible idea. Edward Bellamy’s prose is delightful, sometimes beautiful, and that makes it harder to so severely dislike his actual writing. That being the quality of Looking Backward as a story, as a work of fiction. So it pains me to say that despite his flowing, thoughtful, semi-frequently poetic writing, the book is just not good. I hate to put more effort into this review than it’s worth, but the book was so bad that there has to be something somewhere in writing that says so. After the “plot” sets in (and simultaneously pauses until it picks up 130 pages later, only to once more be put on hold for another 30 pages) almost every page or two shares a horrifying idea that no thinking person could truly call close to utopia. There are a handful of good ones, but so few and far between and already forgotten are they that I’m not going to be able to give them much attention.In Bellamy’s 21st century, over the duration of only 113 years, mankind has been reduced to automatons who have somehow, without explanation, bypassed thousands of years of human nature to evolve into transcendental beings who never lie, who think only of others, never of themselves or their well being, who live entirely selfless lives somehow filled with plenty, all wanting the exact same things, who operate like thoughtless ants in a colony, without desires, opinions, or individuality, as part of an industrial army. America is anti-individuality, preferring instead to think of itself as a mere superorganism that operates as such, with its drone-like constituents, lesser organisms, humanity, carrying out its necessary operations to survive. Markets are crushed, private industry is eviscerated, self-reliance is thrown to the wolves, private property is redistributed as public space, money is replaced by a meaningless credit system based on nothing, where every single working person is given exactly the same ‘credit’ despite job, despite need, despite personal taste, despite effort, despite ability, talent, intelligence, experience, and the big, all powerful God-Eye all-knowing American Government takes over everything, right down to the way you listen to music, make your food, go outside, and buy stuff. And you have no employer but the almighty holy American Government. You work for this faceless mother brain that decides everything for you, that calls all the shots in every avenue of life, and is never wrong. And there is never the idea that it could be wrong because such ideas are forbidden and frowned upon. Newspapers, instead of existing to spread news of the world or share important information, act as a megaphone for public opinion, to re-indoctrinate anyone who’s strayed too far from the totalitarian control. All products and things and, no really, everything artificial in existence, is produced by the American government through some kind of generic, uninspired country-wide Industrial Army, which has become the most important thing in the nation. Competition is squashed. There no longer exist motivations for innovation, for invention, for progress, because humankind has seemingly collectively decided that this communist regime of the new America is ‘perfect’ and everything is as foretold by some bogus Christian prophecy about an age where everything is just like this. And the scariest part is that this is called a utopia. Yes. This utilitarian wasteland of slaves to the machine that is at times both laughable and horrifying, was seen as a utopia by Edward Bellamy when he wrote this in 1887-88. Perhaps if I had been alive in the 19th century this would have looked more like a utopia than it does. But even then, no thinking person could rightfully think the answer to all the country’s problems was to give the government TOTAL CONTROL OVER EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. That’s the only aspect of this book that is science-fiction, this unbelievable enslavement to and adoration of and trust in this command center over the whole population. That, and the way the human race has somehow evolved out of every single defining characteristic that has shaped humanity over the last thousands of years into some glowing golden race that doesn’t think, but is joined as a throbbing collective. That’s not really sci-fi, though, closer to fantasy.In Bellamy’s future, everyone is “equal” only in the sense that they’re treated radically different than their own efforts or talents or abilities or experiences merit. Despite the shabby explanations given, there is no realistic argument in Bellamy’s book that explains why any person would go into medicine, science, engineering, or how anyone could become a professional musician, artist, writer, or actor. The only thing that kept me reading this book was to see how far down the rabbit hole of stupidity it would go. And it went far. Interestingly, in this “utopia,” everyone shares the same opinions on everything, because everyone receives the same education. Hence, no one disagrees on things like the value or quality of literature or art, because education, and education alone, are credited for sculpting a person’s mind and perception. Democratic processes determine who gets to write, who gets to be an artist or a musician, and without explaining further, I think you can already put together how this leads to an obvious state of creative stagnancy and decline. As far as production is concerned, I mentioned the Industrial Army. America’s industry is now organized exactly like the military. Who is at the top of this army? The President. As scary and as stupid as this sounds, it’s actually scarier and stupider. Things are produced only based on exact demand, or on the interest in demand people vote on. This means nothing new or innovative or unique or interesting or of interest to a select few will ever be created. Everything is a mass produced, generic item that only exists because it has been calculated that people will like it. And no members of this Industrial Army are allowed to vote for the President, who is, in fact, also the leader of said army. So much for equality, eh?Want to make some food in your kitchen for dinner? Can’t. There are only ‘public kitchens’ where you go to share food with people. If you want something specific, well, you can’t buy it. Better hope it’s already there. Want to throw your clothes in the wash so they’ll be clean by tonight? There are only Laundromats. Better hope there’s a spot for your three weeks of clothes! Have an amazing idea, and want to develop it and sell it? Too bad. Only big mother government gets to sell things. But after you pour years of your own money and time into developing this thing, maybe you can pitch it to the god-eye government to see if they will support it. So then big mother government will send a poll out to the country and get all kinds of votes and pledges on who is immediately interested in your product or invention. Unless you receive an overwhelming amount of support for your ingenuity and effort, you will be denied, and your hard work will go to waste. You have no option of selling it to someone you know, or building a reputation with your things. NO, don’t even think of it. Selling is strictly prohibited.There is no ambition in Bellamy’s utopia. There is no moving forward. What is it, in this fictional year 2000, that drives people to do things? What gives them the momentum to design or build something new for the good of others? Honor and patriotism. No joke. Honor and patriotism are considered to be the highest values to people of the 21st century. It is for these two reasons people do anything. Want to spend nine years inventing some useful thing that will benefit mankind for the rest of time? You won’t see a dime of good fortune come your way. Dimes don’t mean anything. Instead, you get the good feeling of honor, and the knowledge that you’ve served your country. With incentives like this, it’s no surprise the nation has stagnated into a hole of tedium and uninteresting literature. That’s another thing: the description of literature in this time sounds awful. And according to Bellamy, all crime in the world is caused by one thing: inequality. So once that’s wiped out, crime disappears. Nice fiction. So things like rape and murder and abuse and arson and any other product of sad human reality magically vanishes when equality enters the picture. Bullshit. Bellamy understands humanity no better than a rabbit understands humanity. Prisons are gone, the legal system is radically simplified (along with the removal of lawyers after it is recognized the whole system of cryptic laws is artificially designed to necessitate the existence of lawyers by the lawyers themselves,--one of the few things appealing about Bellamy’s world), but all because of asinine assumptions by Bellamy, being out of touch with humanity even in his own day. So crime isn’t really a problem, but let’s say you choose not to work for a while. BOOM! you’re thrown in prison, solitary confinement with nothing but bread and water. So you rape and murder a family, and you’re sent to a fine rehabilitation center. You decide you’ve worked enough and would like a vacation: cruel and unusual punishment. Utopia!Oh, and it’s still called the United States, but there are no states. All the states have been consumed into the motherbrain of America, exactly against the design and point of America in the first place. So states’ rights and all that shit: gone. Small governments: that’s a joke. Try one megauniversal conglomerate ultragovernment that is exactly the thing of nightmares and horror. Looking Backward was the third most popular book of its time. This can only mean the 19th century was far more horrible and nightmarish than one could imagine. A world where Bellamy’s utopia looks like a step forward must be hell. I knew it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, but this has me thinking it was an utter tortuous existence for all but the most wealthy. The ideas of “equality” in Bellamy’s book are an obvious improvement from his time. But it’s false equality, forced equality. It’s the kind of equality that immediately breeds inequality by engineering a highly artificial reality that operates against nature. It’s the kind of false equality where a person who studies ten years to be a doctor, while sacrificing the finer things in life to devote himself to his studies and the honing of his very specific skills, in the end at 45 years of age and with a wife and three kids, gets the very same pay, the very same home, bed, lifestyle, luxuries, and pleasures that a single 19 year old grocery store clerk gets. That’s not true equality, that’s the kind of false equality that would never work, because it reduces the great to nothing, and raises the nothing to great, and there is no incentive for anyone to do anything or be anything more than the minimum, and human nature itself works against this. This is the equality that benefits the lazy, the uninspired, those lacking ambition, and that punishes those who are the opposite. Bellamy’s solving the problems of his day like solving a playground dispute with a nuclear warhead. He’s solving inequality and wealth disparity and property disparity with a horrifyingly cold and degrading totalitarian state that turns its people into numbered slaves to its own cause. Although Bellamy tries, time and time again, to try to convince the reader that there is plenty of incentive for people to do important jobs, hard jobs, professional jobs, creative or innovative work, he falls on his face every time. It’s like me telling you that in the near future, all humankind will empathize perfectly with everyone else because we will magically have the ability to read each other’s thoughts, see each other’s memories and emotions and ideas in perfect clarity, rendering us fully capable of knowing one another entirely. Bellamy uses the same bullshit to convince his readers the year 2000 will work like this, because humankind will have magically evolved to some egoless, thoughtless, desireless, impersonal, anti-individual state of cosmic connectedness where we have no interests or desires or opinions of our own, no awareness of the self, but instead voluntarily and happily choose to slave away for the united prosperity of mother government who feeds us and pumps us full of credit and generic things to keep us going. If Bellamy’s year 2000 is a utopia to you, it can either be that you’ve imagined nothing better because you live in an unfortunate place in the world, that you are a high school socialist still learning the ways of the world, or you are a power hungry sociopath who wants to be the top of that mother government who rules with an unquestioned iron fist over all her people. I think Bellamy was stuck in the second option. And don’t even get me started on the story. As I said, there’s nothing to it. It’s not a story. It’s tireless exposition in a heavy-handed way for Bellamy to preach his ideas. No characterization, no plot, no action, no philosophy, nothing. Even the one dimensional characters are brainless automatons representative of Bellamy’s ‘future world’ who can only recite facts, not think. And the narrator, the displaced 19th century man, is easily the most braindead character I’ve ever encountered. There is nothing to him but to ask softball questions to the guy championing Bellamy’s philosophy, without the ability to critically analyze anything, who is immediately convinced he is wrong at every turn simply because he is told, “Oh, in the future we know that people from your time were wrong. Look at us now. You were wrong. We are right, and have figured out literally everything there ever was to figure out with humanity. There is no value in your time or in your people or in your perspective or your opinions, because listen, we have determined that our way is right. And don’t you go acting like this totalitarian reich doesn’t make perfect sense to you! WE will be the ones who show dismay and surprise at YOU when you say anything about YOUR time. WE will be the ones to act like you are absolutely insane for thinking money should buy anything.!” I mentioned that Bellamy is preaching his philosophy through the whole book. This is taken very literally when he even goes so far as to employ an actual preacher to treat us to more monologue exposition.There is a small hint at a plot, as I mentioned earlier. But it quickly pauses for 130 pages, and when it picks back up it’s really more of a subplot. But that subplot is far more interesting than the exposition that’s been going on for over a hundred pages by now. Although the outcome of this subplot was hugely predictable, it actually resulted in a decent love story with a unique and creative slant to it. Standing alone, this could have made for a good short story. As it is, it almost feels out of place in this bookThis work exists only to critique the ways of the 19th century, and at that purpose it succeeds. To be honest, there are a handful of things Bellamy criticizes accurately, such as the nature of money and its inherent worthlessness, the archaic cryptic nature of the legal system, the glamour and prestige of overpaid athletes, the problems with education, the wastefulness and aimlessness of much of capitalism, as well as its allowance for more harm than good in some sectors. There are a few more. Even when Bellamy invents a process by which a much more intelligent and able and qualified President is ensured to be elected, instead of those we get now, it’s all for nothing when observing the role the President takes in this gloomy world. So while there are a few valid criticisms offered, and an underlying theme of hope and prosperity for mankind, which no one could have a problem with, every solution proposed is dismayingly awful, short sighted, lacking in fundamental psychology, and is the creation of pure fantasy that on the surface seems fine, but under a little scrutiny and reflection seems awful. While it is clear Bellamy put a lot of work and thought into the concepts of change he proposes, he doesn’t seem to look at their implications. Bellamy’s shortsightedness doesn’t limit itself to these radical changes in societal operation, but extends to things like art, music, clothing, speech, and technology. Somehow in 113 years, as I’ve already pointed out, humanity has simultaneously transcended mere humanity to become beings of selfless, loving, trusting, purely hard working essence who never get sick or have things wrong with their brains, while also being reduced to opinionless and thoughtless automatons--YET, technology has not advanced in all that time, music has stayed the same, art is the same, and clothing is the exact same. If ever Bellamy wanted to project a positive, imaginative, plausible world, certainly he would have made room for, and given time and thought to, these enormous aspects of human creation. Yet, in his seemingly limited imagination these things have stayed exactly the same. And that’s bizarre and disappointing. But interestingly, it’s also explained very well in Bellamy’s world, though I doubt he intended for it to be. You see, none of these things possibly could evolve or move forward or progress in Bellamy’s 21st century, because humanity would have no means to do so. Like I said, ambition is dead. Creativity is gone. There will never be a revolutionary technological advancement, another Shakespeare or Melville or Dickens (who Bellamy professes his love for) or Mozart or Chopin, there will never be new ideas because there is no room for them, since everything is already “perfect.” Perfectly stagnant.I have commended Bellamy on his prose. I will also commend him on the merit that his overall vision is positive and good. The details of his vision for change, not so good. But even with a “story” that I didn’t care about, and characters flat as the paper they were printed on, parts of the book were beautiful and inspiring in a kind of vague, but progressive way. Not enough so to make the other 95% of it forgivable. I’ll close this longwinded waste of space by saying that in Bellamy’s world, this book would have never found its way into my hands. I bought this at a used book store because it looked and sounded cool. In Bellamy’s world, people cannot buy or sell things. Not from or to each other, that is. You can only buy things from big mother government. You can’t sell your things. You can only give them away. There is no possibility for a marvelous place like the used book/music/movie/tv/game/comics/everything store at which I found this book. There’s no large repository of used items to find new owners, new homes. If something is old and no longer considered vitally important to the populace by the government, it stops being produced, and you’ll never in your life have a chance to find it. Everything that you have that you can’t find someone to take, but that you no longer want, just becomes trash. Bellamy’s future is more wasteful than any other he could have imagined.

  • Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
    2018-11-11 14:27

    With books one can never go wrong. Whether one is reading or writing, his views will always remain true on paper. Of course one will receive criticisms from various quarters. That alone does not make the writer's view wrong. On the other hand, a person who insists on passing his ideas orally has no audience. All people can do is listen and if they do not agree with what the speaker says they shut it out. 'Looking Backward' was written by Edward Bellamy in the nineteenth century. In it he expresses his views on the social, economic, and political problems of his countrymen at the time. Later, he provides some useful information on how best he thinks we can solve those problems. The issues. The most fundamental issue concerns the social and economic structure of the time. It is important to note that Mr. Bellamy was an American. United States is a capitalist country. They believe that for a country to prosper individuals should be allowed to pursue their self-interests. Money is the accepted legal tender that gives one the purchasing power. However, not everyone had the power to buy and sell. Tge classes. The author has formed an opinion on how society is divided. Accordingly, he states that there are only two classes, the rich on the one side and the poor holding up the other end. Consequently, these inequality has led to the oppression of those who are not wealthy. For example, they are forced to waork long hours with very little pay. Also, it results in unfair competition as those with big businesses will eventually put those with small firms out of the market. The causes. In his book, Edward Bellamy suggests that the main cause of social inequality is the lack of education on the part of the poor. He considers them unable to go to school due their inability to pay the expensive fees in school. In turn they end up working for privates entities whose intention is to exploit them. He lists privatisation as another cause of poverty in his country. Most businesses are owned and managed by individuals and companies owned in a private capacity. They are only concerned with profits and not advancement of their country. Going forward. He looks forward to the twentieth century which he views with great optimism. He hopes for great changes where people will not be judged individually but will co-exist in a way that will end capitalism. Nationalism is the vehicle that will propel humanity to this social bliss. First, the individual nations will give guarantees to its populace that it will provide and protect them. The government will ensure that all its citizens have jobs and work on an equal footing despite ones form of profession. Automatically, it will follow that states offer the same courtesies to each other. Therfore, foreign trade and migranys will adequately be dealt with in manner that nobody will feel oppressed. Competition will be regualted in a way that it will promote socialosm rather than inhibit it. Laws will be few and there will be no need for lawyers. Prisons will be abolished as crime rates will reduce as everyone is adequately protected finamcially. Education will be cheap and literacy levels will be very high. Tge health of the nation will positively be enhanced resulting to reduced mortality rates. In summary, a perfect world where everybody gets an equal piece of the national cake. Unfortunately, the twentieth century is here and we are still yearning for Bellamy's utopia. In africa things have worsened. Colonialism and ne-colonialism have left us bereft of pur resources while entangling us in massive debts resulting to loss of our independence. Bellamy would be very dissapointed. Most of us are worse than the people of his time. 85% of the world's wealth is owned by 1% of the populace. The rest are left to fight for the 1% of the wealth remaining. That can only lead to chaos and anarchy. But, we will wait for Bellamy's Utopia.

  • Susan Marie
    2018-10-30 17:19

    "Looking Backward" is a fantastic work of utopian literature. Bellamy's purpose was to educate the 19th century audience about the pitfalls of current social and economic systems in place. Bellamy uses a fictional 20th century audience to present his work not as a book of fiction, but as a map, a historical document, so people are able to improve society. Coming from a Nationalistic point of view bordering on Communism, Bellamy manages to present clear cut Utopian themes that will blow your mind.

  • Sansriti Tripathi
    2018-11-07 19:35

    fascinating premise, incredibly boring in its execution.

  • Illiterate
    2018-11-11 14:37

    Could a socialist utopia be less appealing? Get your News from Nowhere instead.

  • Patrick Peterson
    2018-10-23 18:26

    I listened to the LibriVox recording of this book, narrated by Anna Simon: https://librivox.org/looking-backward...I had originally heard of this book in my High School American history class since the book was a bestseller when it came out in 1888 ("the third-largest bestseller of its time" according to wikipedia) and touted as quite influential. The wikipedia listing goes on to explain some things that are quite important for the prospective reader to know: "It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day. "It is one of the few books ever published that created almost immediately on its appearance a political mass movement".[2]In the United States alone, over 162 "Bellamy Clubs" sprang up to discuss and propagate the book's ideas.[3] Owing to its commitment to the nationalization of private property and the desire to avoid use of the term socialism, this political movement came to be known as Nationalism — not to be confused with the political concept of nationalism.[4] The novel also inspired several utopian communities."The wikipedia article also notes the extensive number of books that came out afterwards in reaction and in sympathy of Bellamy’s work. And the precursor books, in particular: August Bebel's Woman in the Past, Present, and Future (1886).[15] were noted.Before I offer some points of critique, I want to say that the ostensible sympathies of the author’s desire to improve the lot of the common man and woman are admirable, To increase the wealth, health conditions, social standing and respect for all men and women is a noble goal I wholeheartedly share. The comments I make below all share the goal stated, but simply point out the flaws of his thinking that do not coincide with the reality of how to actually achieve those goals.1. Bellamy demonstrated little realization of the progress that late 19th century American civilization had actually made toward alleviating mass poverty. Bellamy repeated over and over how horrible conditions were in 1887 Boston for the common man. But if one looks at history at all objectively one would see that the conditions of the common man in Boston of 1887 were vastly improved from the conditions in Boston a century before, despite there being vastly more people populating the city. (18k in 1790 ->448K in 1890 a more than 20 fold increase!!!). Though far from perfect, or as wealthy as we are today, the Boston of 1887 was a vastly bigger, wealthier and more full of opportunities area than ever previously. The reason that Boston (and the US as a whole) attracted so much growth, so many people, was the success of the relative free market capitalism that was it’s foundation.2. The constant misinformed diatribes in the book against individualism, competition and private property vs. the totally out of touch with reality fictions promoting his ideas of cooperation, communal control producing vast wealth for all could possibly be forgiven, considering the best critiques of his ideas would only come later via theory and actual practice. My favorite primarily theoretical critique was Socialism by Ludwig von Mises, written 34 years later (1922) which thoroughly dispatched all the ideas I heard in Bellamy’s book and more. Though Bellamy was not listed in the Index, his ideas are all covered therein, and his precursor mentioned above, August Bebel, was given much attention. The other damning critique is simply history. The countries and their lowest level citizens, which following the most free market (capitalist) path, with private property being key, all prospered greatly over the next century +. The countries which tried to implement his ideas of communal/socialized property and control most closely exhibited the most hellish mass starvations, purges, enslavements and carnage that the world has ever seen. Over the years, the apologists for socialism have tried to excuse the failings of the system (the socialist idea) via scorning one ruler or another for being a madman or implementing the idea foolishly. But the facts remain, that the closer any society tried to implement socialization of the means of production, the poorer and more tyrannical the society became. Here is a list of just some of the historical markers: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, National Socialist (Nazi) Germany, People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic (North) of Korea, Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge in Cambodia), but there were and are many more, including the terrible starvation occurring right now in socialist Venezuela!3. The many misunderstandings and misrepresentations of how the free market actually provides more and better quality goods for all are legion in the book. The conflation of short-term and foolish or worse self-interest vs. enlightened self-interest and how as Adam Smith put it: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” And how the proof of the pudding is the actual provision of more and better goods and services in places where private property is honored and protected.4. “The labor question” as Bellamy belabored, was indeed serious in his day. Major strikes and organized labor violence and other actions even continued off and through the 1980s. But the causes of those problems were often the very “social” system (government controls) that Bellamy mistakenly thought the solution. Depressions, inflations, financial panics, mass unemployment, etc. were mostly due to government policies that undermined the beneficial workings of the market. For the reader who is truly interested in knowing more about this controversial statement, I recommend the following authors: Ludwig von Mises, Robert Higgs, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard and others.5. Bellamy often used terms of war to describe capitalist free market interactions and nothing but sweet harmony to describe his socialist society. This is totally disingenuous and misleading to the nth degree. As I mentioned before, the actual results of socialist planning and controls result in starvation and ruthless bloodshed. He rarely admitted the outright coercion involved in implementing his plans, though the premise is a must, that if someone in his dream society does not agree with the one overall plan, they will be coerced to “cooperate.” That is, people who have different, independent, unusual, creative, minority, or downright opposite ideas about what is the best way forward, will be forced to comply with what “society” wants. To put it bluntly, there will be NO freedom of action in his society. Conversely, his “war” terms to describe free markets are simply caricatures of what is really happening in a capitalist society. If a clerk lies to you about a product, do you ever believe or do business with him/her/the company again? If a company does not treat you well in almost any way, do you not simply go to their competitor? Do private companies have the product or service guarantees, the quality service the new and amazing products you can trust, or does the Post Office, the DMV, the Army, Congress, the President or the IRS?6. In Chapter 6 Bellomy actually levels, to some extent, with the reader by laying out his plan of “Universal Military Service” which solved “the labor problem.” So, the strife for various unions trying to get a better deal from their employers for the workers is replaced with one giant draft of all workers into the military. Right. We know how that worked out during WWII.7. In chapter 7 Bellamy made this statement: “The government won’t maim and slaughter workmen by the thousand like the corporations did in your day (1880s).” There were indeed some vicious strikes that resulted in deaths and much property damage in the late 1800s. The causes of the violence are complex and not at all only due to corporate management and certainly no “thousands” maimed or killed. (See works by W.H. Hutt, Sylvester Petro, Charles Baird and others). But in contrast, the systems of socialization/nationalization advocated by Bellomy did not result in thousands maimed or slaughtered, but rather tens of millions, in the 20th century. (See the works of R.J. Rummel, Frank Dekötter, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Robert Conquest and the authors of The Black Book of Communism.)8. In chapter 8 Bellamy also gives a hint at the real nature of his system, when he focuses on the punishments for lack of performance & other pro-social behavior. No mention at all is given, of course, to the vast rewards that entrepreneurs receive when they figure out and provide goods and services that consumers really want. Think Steve Jobs and his incredible creations of Apple products and services, or the amazing new services provided free or vastly better/cheaper by Google, Uber, Lyft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora, Spotify, etc. etc.9. The absence of Ballamy's understanding of the threat of centralized power is almost astounding. Some of his proposals that demonstrate this: a. doing away with juries and defence attorneys and giving all power to judges in criminal (and civil?) trials b. eliminating states, with no discussion of federalism and division of government let alone considering the concept of individual sovereignty.10. Bellamy's lack of understanding of the vital role of money - the medium of exchange, was similar to Lenin's. He and the Russian people learned pretty fast that, even in a modified socialist economy, money still provides the crucial functions of making trade, information transmission and rational calculation of economic plans possible.11. I have mentioned this above in various ways, but not straight on: Bellamy claims, over and over again that his society (socialist) is based on the superior ethical values of harmony, equality, public/communal property and cooperation and that it is therefore vastly superior to the existing (capitalist) society (in the late 1800s) that is based on greed, self-interest, competition, (virtual) war, etc. As I have tried to point out above, he has it virtually backward: it is the free market that is based on self-ownership, mutual respect, voluntary cooperation, contract and abhorrence of the initiation of force. For more on the ethical differences and actual outcomes (vs. dreams) between the two, I recommend Mises, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and other libertarian thinkers.12. I have listed just some of the ideas of Bellamy and authors who have given me insights about just how error filled or even deadly those ideas play out when attempted to be implemented in the real world. But I would like to recommend at least one additional organization that has a vast amount of resources for clear thinking on these issues: www.fee.org. I highly recommend them to the reader interested in the truth of these matters of solving problems of poverty, inequality, injustice, war and more.The LibriVox narrator did a very good job. She has a nice European (German, Dutch, French?) accent, that is usually very easy to listen to. Some of her English pronunciations are curious. The one I remember most was how she pronounced the oft used word in the book "clerk" (as in a store clerk or salesperson) - "clark." She seemed quite sympathetic to the ideas in the book and put good emotion into the character's lines, despite some parts of the book being fairly dry explanations of the mechanics of how the national socialist fantasies "were actually working" in the 20th century.

  • Carol Fenlon
    2018-10-28 15:39

    I really looked forward to reading this book, being quite interested in speculative sci-fi and having read about Bellamy and the way the book inspired the growth of a nationalist cult in the turn of 19th century America. Quite a hackneyed plot in which a young man is hypnotised and wakes up a century later in a much changed Boston but it was probably quite new at the time of writing in 1887. Bellamy focusses very much on the social, economic and political structural changes in society which in the 20th century have created an utopian ideal where legal, military and financial systems are no longer necessary as everything is nationalised and there is no competition. Everyone in this society is equal and is paid the same income no matter what they do. Bellamy goes into minute details as to how these systems work to the point that much of the book seems like a polemic against the ills of Victorian capitalism rather than a work of fiction. However there is very little else to lighten the text and turn it into entertaining fiction. There is virtually nothing about the changes in technology, transport, little details about homes, fashions or any of the usual paraphernalia of life. I presume the telephone had been invented in Bellamy's time as the book does feature a telephone in the house which also acts as a kind of radio over which music is transmitted 24/7 and to which people can listen as they want to. Imagination does not stretch however to any different kinds of music to those familiar in Bellamy's day. There is little description of the city, the streets or modes of transport apart from vague descriptions of beautiful buildings and nothing about the kinds of foods or entertainments people enjoyed in this future world. This disappointed me a bit as it is always fun to see with hindsight how people imagined the future when those dates have already come to pass. A couple of interesting points; the people of Bellamy's year 2000 did not have money but a kind of credit card. Not however, the kind of credit card we have now that encourages you to spend, spend, spend but a card loaded with an annual income which was the same for everyone, against which they could buy from the national stores whatever they needed until the income was used up. Something else I found quite entertaining was the year 2000 take on literature which decreed that all authors must first publish their work at their own expense, its survival then depending on the buying public. This then cut out middle men, profiteering etc. but perhaps also ensured a flow of similar books that appealed to the widest majority. However, in Bellamy's future, citizens would be so well educated and of superior taste that perhaps such an argument would not hold water. Anyway, it is gratifying to the self-publisher to find his/her actions justified in such a way.I enjoyed the book but the emphasis on social change rather detracted from any fictional interest, although there was a sort of weak love story going on at the same time. Bellamy's focus on the changes made him ignore how these changes might have come about, they seem to just have happened without any revolutionary engine or anything similar. There is also little about the national context of the rest of the United States nor any consideration of its setting in the world economy. Another thing, although the novel describes national co-operation to the point of true anarchy where neither laws, armies or much in the way of government are necessary, where all are truthful and have the interests of the whole at heart, working together for the good of society, I was uncomfortably reminded at times of the Nazi regime with its nationalistic principles. But who knows what will happen in the future and this is a work of fiction anyway. I was engaged by Bellamy's thoughts and feelings and rather sad that his prophecies have not come to pass, at least yet.