Robert Owen and His Legacy
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A radical thinker and philanthropic employer, Robert Owen (1771–1858) made major contributions to nineteenth-century social movements. Owen organized cooperatives and trade unions, pioneered new approaches to the education of children, advocated birth control, and established utopian communities in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Robert Owen and His Legacy features the latest scholarship on the life, work, and legacy of the legendary reformer.
inveterately expressed in a splenetic tone highly reminiscent of biblical prophecy and Dissenting protest. It can indeed be seen in retrospect that the great consolidation of his mature polit ical and social writings represented in the several volumes of The Book of the New Moral World, in which that strange title from the journal and the Catechism recurs, is much more abidingly preoccupied with the perennial question of religion than the subsequent reputation of Owen and his move ment would
Priestman, Romantic Atheism: Poetry and Freethought, 1780–1830 (Cambridge, 1999). 2 Eileen Yeo, ‘Robert Owen and Radical culture’, in Sidney Pollard and John Salt (eds), Robert Owen: Prophet of the Poor (London, 1971), pp. 84–114. 3 Daniel E. White, Early Romanticism and Religious Dissent (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 87–119. 4 Ian Donnachie, Robert Owen: Social Visionary (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 22–9. 5 Robert Owen, The Life of Robert Owen, Written by Himself, in SWRO, 4, pp. 54, 56. 6 Jonathan
Decline? Industrial Structure and Policy in Britain and her Competitors (Oxford, 1988), pp. 95–119: p. 99. 4 John Saville, ‘Marxism Today: an anatomy’, Socialist Register, 26 (1990), 35–59: 36. 5 For the ideological roots and a review of some of the literature on this see Noel Thompson, ‘From Hayek to New Labour: the changing ideology of public service provision’, in Pauline Dibben et al. (eds), Modernising Work in Public Services: Redefining Roles and Relationships in Britain’s Changing
His plausible account of what had been achieved at New Lanark by de-committing from the apprenticeship system, placing age restrictions on child labour, limiting hours of work, and providing nearcompulsory education undoubtedly justified the moral indignation evident in his stance. So factory reform, promoted again by a vigorous propaganda campaign before and after the first parliamentary Act in 1819, brought Owen widespread recognition. Owen’s contribution to the debate was longlasting: it was
aristocrats or magnates which made him reject the idea that a sudden change of system was desirable. He stressed, often, that the change from the old to the new system would have to be gradual: The change from the one to the other . . . must not be too hasty. All I ask is, – let it be gradual, and conducted in the true spirit of benevolence; and let no one be injured in mind, body or estate. . . . The institutions of our forefathers, erroneous as they are, must not be handled with violence, or