Bellamy's Looking Backward

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Dissatisfied with the socioeconomic conditions of the nineteenth century, Edward Bellamy wrote Looking Backward to address the flaws and offer solutions for a better society. The author lived during the peak of the Industrial Revolution, which increased the efficiency of the economy, but also widened the gap between social classes. Innovative machinery was able to produce more output per capita and also raise the average standard of living, but the majority of the wealth was possessed by a direct minority of the population. Bellamy, observing the social injustices of having an aristocratic class believing that they were superior to the masses, blamed this result on the infrastructure of urbanization, industrialization, and capitalism. Using Julian West as a character that the educated and wealthy elite could relate to at that time, Bellamy introduces his ideas of radical social and economic reform through the character of Doctor Leete. Although Bellamy’s intentions were benevolent, his proposals were inconceivable as they rely on an evolution of morals and ethics to a level that is still nonexistent today. Looking Backward was effective for Bellamy’s purpose of having his audience recognize that the industrialized society required changes, but his actual proposals were too Utopian to succeed. Bellamy sees industrialized America as an inefficient economy of competitive markets, a society misusing its technological advancements, and an uneven distribution of income to different social classes. In an industrialized economy, private capital gain and the weeding out of inefficient industries characterized the infrastructure of the society. Dr. Leete says, “Their misery came, with all your other miseries, from that incapacity for cooperation which followed from the individualism on which your social system was founded, and from your inability to perceive that you could make times more profit out of your fellow men by uniting with them…” (page 58) By emphasizing the...
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