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am 12. Mai 2000
I really wasn't expecting much out of this book. I'm not a socialist or a communist, so I figured I'd be sneering at much of what Bellamy had to say. Imagine my surprise when I found myself genuinely attracted to the book. Bellamy wrote a socialist tract in the form of a novel. He gets his points across and weaves in a romance tale along the way. I should say that the ending was no surprise to me, as I kind of figured out what was going to happen along the way.
The book begins with our hero, Julian West, who is a quite successful gent in 1888 Boston. West is quite the dandy, and is engaged to be married to a lovely young lady. West has trouble sleeping, so he regularly employs the services of a "mesmerizer" to help him sleep. The problem with this is that someone must be around to wake him up or the mesmerizing process might cause a long slumber. You can guess what happens. West is discovered in 2000 in a world that is a far cry from the world of the late 19th century. The world has changed in a radical way, and the family that finds West, the Leetes, want to know all about his old world.
The new world is a socialist/communist utopia in which the old problems of unemployment, war, inequality and the like have been solved forever. The rest of the book is a discussion between West and Dr. Leete about the new world and how it contrasts to the old world. In this one has to be fairly impressed with Bellamy's predictions. Bellamy predicted credit cards and even interactive music that can be piped into a person's room.
A romance between West and Dr. Leete's daughter Edith eventually blooms, but I won't spoil the surprise this entails. The romance theme was put in to make the socialist text more palatable for the 19th century reader. It could conceivably do the same for the modern reader, although if you're reading this book you are probably reading it for its political value.
I certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in utopian works, or 19th century political views. What is really neat is while you read this book you can easily find yourself believing that this could work, until you remember something that Bellamy never knew about. The utter failure of the Soviet Union, and Communism in general. Give it a shot.
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am 13. Januar 2000
The main reason why I bought this book, was the optimistic tone on the cover. It's quite hard to discover books like that and when I come across one, it's mine in a second. As far as this is concerned, 'Looking backward' certainly met my expectations. It has faith in human nature and is quite optimistic about the future. The author has put great efford into figuring out a society that could maybe work if we put our minds to it. I cannot help but compare it to Huxleys 'Island'. A significant thought in that book was that people can't be happy before some basic living conditions are fulfilled. While Huxley focuses mainly on the total pursue of happiness after these basic problems are dealt with, Bellamy tries to work out a way to bring bread on the table for everybody. To me, this is the most valuable feature of 'Looking backward'. The system he describes however, seems to me somehow unatainable, unless human nature changes greatly over the years. Bellamy made the common mistake : He forgot about people. The people he describes in 2000 are aliens to me. Surely people cannot live in a ready-made society, where everything is taken care of for them. They need their goals in life and the freedom to choose their own path towards these goals. Where can teenagers who just want to travel around a bit after finishing school go to in Bellamy's utopia ? According to his presentation, they go into jail. Needless to say I can't agree with this at all. Moreover, people could never be as unselfish and pure as Bellamy describes them. In theory, this is a beautiful system, put real human beings into it and it falls apart. Why is it that most 'dreamers' can't accept the ways of human nature ? It's perfectly allright for people to be a bit selfish, confused, slobby, and so on... . Why not create an utopia that is really adjusted to US, instead of to something we will/can never be ? This I found very disappointing. Nevertheless I give this book a quote of 3 stars for making a really good try for a description of Utopia and offering people the insight that our main goal should not be saving ourselves, but saving everybody. This insight could be the start of something wonderfull... .
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am 17. Mai 1999
Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, is a vision of a utopian Boston of the year 2000 seen in the eyes of the fictional, nineteenth century Bostonian, Julian West. Having fallen asleep for 113 years Mr. West is awakened by the Leetes family. Over the course of the next several days he discovers a multitude of changes that have occurred during his long slumber. Most importantly or most overarchingly is the idea of social change that has occurred. While many other authors' ideas of the future have involved images of great technological change, they have not demonstrated an adaptation of human behavioral change. In Bellamy's eyes however, there are some technological innovations but the primary changes occur in the areas of economics that leads to dramatic changes in the human condition. It seems to be a world in which, once everyone decided not to fight over money any longer, then people were capable of getting along. Public service and public caring for one another is the norm. In the USA of Bellamy's 2000, the government is a centralized state with the military as the primary employer. Bellamy refers to it as a corporate state and the industrialized army. In his world military and service go hand in hand. In his exploration Bellamy addresses many issues that would be of concern to not only his readers but to readers to this day. Obviously there is the economic foundation of both the nineteenth and the imaginary twentieth century of the book. This leads directly to the issues of labor. Issues of international economics, law and prison all come up in West's exploration of his newly discovered world. Again each of these issues is ultimately related and hence resolved through economics. Women's equality remains an unresolved although tremendously improved issue (an understatement). Women's issues are in some ways resolved because they are no longer the unpaid domestics that they were in Bellamy's day. There is less need for lawyers and understanding the law because things have been resolved with economics so that people are fighting over civil issues and since everyone has they same economic status then there is no need to steal. There is a great sense in Bellamy's writing that social Darwinism plays a significant role. Clearly there is an idea of eugenics (reminiscent of the Oneida community) where the bad parts of society are simply bread out of society. "Like the social Darwinists of his day, Bellamy viewed character traits as inborn and believed that the morally as well as the physically unfit must be weeded out if human beings were to evolve to a higher state." (Strauss, 76) What must be addressed about this particular work is the influence that it exhibited on other writers in Bellamy's day and after. "It influenced movements of Christian socialism wherever they appeared it positions echo and re-echo on George Bernard Shaw, Veblen, Debs, Norman Thomas and the early Zionists." (Halewood, 451) Although the book is missing from today's list of important contributions to American thought, the book's enormous popularity at the end of the previous century must be acknowledged. "Looking Backward was possibly the most popular utopian novel ever written, igniting a nationwide social reform movement and leaving an enduring mark upon the rising generation of American intellectuals and writers." (McClay, 264) The problems that it raises for us, as readers near the end of the twentieth century, are in areas of middle-class elitism, overt ideology, and the lack of demonstrative communal activity. This book is, however, a powerful example of a novel that moved from text to social reform movement. It has been said that the book is not a well-written piece of literature but that the significance of the text is in its effect on the society in which it was consumed. A utopian vision of a future world does two very important functions. One, it shows a more perfect vision of a happy world. But inherently in that vision is the need to discuss or point out all of the elements of the current world that make for an unhappy world. This book had profound influence not so much in the literary world, although numerous other utopian texts were produced in the years following its publication. With Bellamy we find a book that influenced nationalism throughout the United States and lead to socialistic reforms in policy in the early part of the twentieth century.
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am 28. April 1999
From what I hear, one of the first organizations of so many radical ideas into one place. Many of the ideas are clever, and there are a few that I had never heard before, some that actually have the illusion of being plausible, until I give myself a reality check. I don't blame Bellamy for not knowing what would happen with many of his socialistic ideas, I blame him for not thinking. Complaints: 1: Apparently the improvement of working standards have eliminated all hate and crime. What!? 2: With equal reward for work in every job (except in the case authors), people are expected to be more motivated for honor's sake. That sure has worked well in the past. (rolls eyes). 3: The characters are nothing but vessels to transmit Bellamy's ideas. The main character awakens after a century long sleep with everyone he ever knew or cared about dead, and after a moment of shock, says 'hey, let's go find out how the new social system works, and spends the rest of the book doing just that. I realize that this was probably the most effective way Bellamy could find to convey his ideas, but if utopian novel were presented in this format today, regardless of the ideas put forth, I think it would be called a piece of trash. Out of respect for history and some of the good ideas in this book I will give it 3 stars.
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am 10. März 2000
although initally i believed the book had promise, i became increasingly frustrated at the depth of detail, the commentator for Bellamys utopia, spent on explaining it. the overall structre is generally sound but can become tedoius. as for the world as bellamy envisons, well he can have it. give me the harsh, unequal, but despite this, real ninetenth century. as a vision good; as a reality no chance. but to be fair to bellamy he probably accepts this and this is why he artculates his philosophy through literature. a book that encourages you to think but it works best as a critque of the ninetenth century.
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am 23. Juni 2000
Being a fan of irony, I decided to read this novel now that it is the year 2000. Much like 1984 by George Orwell, many of the prophecies have fallen short of the mark. The Utopian strain of Bellamys vision is apparent but we have not nearly evolved that much. This book contains a lot of the naivity of the Socialist/Marxist intelligentsia of that era. Human nature, alas, is still much too flawed for that. But politics aside, this is an enjoyable, well written novel. Bellamy is obviously preaching but it does not detract from the story. Julian West is a sympathetic character in spite his aristocratic origin. It should also be stated that some of the predictions of the book like credit cards and malls have come to pass. It was stimulating and thought provoking to read this book in the year the story allegedly took place. It should remind us that we have come a long way but we still have a long way yet to go.
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am 11. Februar 1999
I was assigned this book for a class, but I am SOOO glad. The Utopian approach is refreshing, even from the vantage point of 1887. The view of the future is suprisingly accurate for technology, and the reasons for a change from the past go far beyond astute.
Many cynical people think today is the way life HAS to be. This book gives us an alternate view of our reality and hope in humanity for the possibility of progress in the future.
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am 19. Januar 1999
"Looking Backward", by Edward Bellamy, was clearly a vehical to espouse a leftist utopian view of society. Mr. Bellamy's account of society in the year 2000 could have come verbatim from Stalin's Soviet propoganda. This is an excellent book to read for the purposes of recognizing pie eyed utopian drival that has proven to destroy societies that try to implement policies to support this dogma.
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am 27. September 1998
I was forced to read this book over the vacation, during the summer. I really loved it, because of its depictions of the future. If you read "The Martian Chronicles," by Ray Bradbury, you will love this book. It is about a utopia from a war-filled world of the 50's to the new and improved one of the future. I highly recoomend this book to all ages!
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am 9. März 2000
Bellamy's 'Looking Backward' is an interesting little book - it may just as well have been an essay of the author's opinions of what the future may bring. Lacking in plot, this novel is by no means an easy read, but worth reading even if only to say you finished!
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