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Utopian Socialism is the term for the first currents of modern Socialist thought. Utopian socialists never actually used this name to describe themselves; the term "utopian socialism" was introduced by Karl Marx and used by later socialist thinkers, to describe early socialist or quasi-socialist intellectuals who created hypothetical visions of perfect egalitarian and communalist societies without actually concerning themselves with the manner in which these societies could be created or sustained.
Since "utopian socialism" is a broad category rather than a specific political movement, it is difficult to define it with any degree of precision. According to some definitions, the term should be reserved to authors who published their works between the French Revolution and the mid-1830s. Other definitions push the beginning of utopian socialism much further back in time, citing such figures as Jesus among the first utopian socialists.
Although it is technically possible for any person living at any time in history to be an utopian socialist, the term is most often applied to those utopian socialists who lived in the first quarter of the 19th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, the other branches of socialism far surpassed the utopian version in terms of intellectual development and number of supporters. Utopian Socialists were important in the formation of modern movements for intentional community and cooperatives, such as Open Source and Techno Communism .
The term "scientific socialism " is sometimes used by Marxists to describe their version of socialism, specifically for the purpose of counterposing it to Utopian Socialism which was descriptive and idealistic (in a sense of representing an ideal) rather than scientific, i.e., developed by means of reasoning and based on social sciences.
Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a successful businessman who devoted much of his profits to improving the lives of his employees. His reputation grew when he set up a textile factory in New Lanark, Scotland and introduced shorter working hours, schools for children and renovated housing. He also set up an Owenite commune called New Harmony in Indiana, USA. This collapsed when one of his business partners ran off with all the profits. Owen's main contribution to socialist thought was the view that human social behaviour is not fixed or absolute, and that human beings have the free will to organize themselves into any kind of society they wish.
Étienne Cabet (1788–1856) was influenced by Robert Owen. In his book "Travel and adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria" (1840) he desribed an idealist communalist society. His attempts to recreate it (Icarian movement ) failed.
Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was by far the most utopian of the Socialists. Rejecting the industrial revolution altogether and thus the problems that arose with it, he made various fanciful claims about the ideal world he envisioned. Despite some clearly non-socialist inclinations, he did still contribute significantly - if indirectly - to the socialist movement. His writings about turning work into play influenced the young Karl Marx and helped him devise his theories of alienation. Fourier was also a radical radical feminist.
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