Owen anticipated both Marx’s concept of false consciousness and Herbert Marcuse’s of repressive tolerance. He insisted that men, because of the way they have been hitherto educated . . . are incompetent to form a correct or sound judgment. Creatures of their environment, they have been rendered irrational by the absurd doctrine of free will and responsibility.
All could be put right if such subjects. . . . be instructed in better habits, and made rationally intelligent. But until then, Owen didn’t want the opinions of the ill-trained and uninformed on measures intended for their relief and amelioration. No! . . . their advice can be of no value.
Owen’s sentiments were exemplified by the most famous of the utopian communes, Brook Farm in Massachusetts. Influenced by the ideas of French social reformer Charles Fourier, Flynn writes, Brook Farm was stocked with Boston Brahmins, Harvard graduates, [and] descendants of the Pilgrims who retained the Puritan conviction that they were the elect but had little common sense.
Failures at subsistence farming, dependent on charity for their Thanksgiving dinner, they needed to hire unskilled laborers in order to feed themselves. Writing about the plebs, one of Brook Farm’s members, Charles Dana, insisted: ‘We are in fact the only men who can really point out their course for them and they can hardly help looking to us for their advisors.”
But the laborers chafed under their supervisors feckless paternalism, openly mocking Dana and his fellows as “aristocrats.”
This is why we should be down on these people like Owen, Marcuse, the Frankfurt School [of which he was a leading light] and all others who would oppress, behind a veneer of academia and behind overinflated reputations as “leaders of thought” of the time.
What it all boils down to every time is expressed in the article writer’s rejoinder:
My personal utopia is all about freedom from utopians and power-seekers. I wish to control no-one – unless they are trying to harm me.
Amen. Just leave me alone and let me get on with my own life.