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Rethinking Utilitarian Ethics and the Gospel of Work in William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1892)

Hacene Benmechiche


This paper discusses William Morris’s idea of a socialist revolution as envisioned in his utopian romance News from Nowhere (1892). It explores the factors which prompted the author to engage in the heated debates and actions of his time to reconstruct a commonwealth out of the late nineteenth century British society, plagued by growing inequality, shabbiness, injustice, ill health and unhappiness of the labouring majority. Drawing upon Karl Mannheim (1936) and Michael Bakhtin (1996), I attempt to situate Morris’s utopian mentality among the authors of the utopian tradition; and I read the text both as a perpetuation of the utopian tradition to inspire transformative action in times of crisis, and as a polemical rejoinder both to the conservatives’ “cacotopia”, and the liberals’ “Idea” of his time. Morris’s insistence on the baneful effects industrialism and urbanisation on the individual, the community, and environment are still relevant to our world.

Keywords: Utopia- utopian mentality- revolution- “Nowhere”- work play-utilitarian ethics- trade unionism- socialist- liberal- ideology- fellowship- garden-environment- happiness.

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