BOOK II (4) : THEIR TRADES, AND MANNER OF LIFE
AGRICULTURE is that which is so universally
understood among them that no person, either man or woman, is ignorant
of it; they are instructed in it from their childhood, partly by what they
learn at school and partly by practice; they being led out often into the
fields, about the town, where they not only see others at work, but are
likewise exercised in it themselves. Besides agriculture, which is so common
to them all, every man has some peculiar trade to which he applies himself,
such as the manufacture of wool, or flax, masonry, smith's work, or carpenter's
work; for there is no sort of trade that is not in great esteem among them.
|The choice of a profession|
|The rythms of daily life|
It is ordinary to have public lectures every morning before daybreak; at which none are obliged to appear but those who are marked out for literature; yet a great many, both men and women of all ranks, go to hear lectures of one sort of other, according to their inclinations. But if others, that are not made for contemplation, choose rather to employ themselves at that time in their trades, as many of them do, they are not hindered, but are rather commended, as men that take care to serve their country. After supper, they spend an hour in some diversion, in summer in their gardens, and in winter in the halls where they eat; where they entertain each other, either with music or discourse.
They do not so much as know dice, or any such foolish and mischievous
games: they have, however, two sorts of games not unlike our chess; the
one is between several numbers, in which one number, as it were, consumes
another: the other resembles a battle between the virtues and the vices,
in which the enmity in the vices among themselves, and their agreement
against virtue, is not unpleasantly represented; together with the special
oppositions between the particular virtues and vices; as also the methods
by which vice either openly assaults or secretly undermines virtue, and
virtue on the other hand resists it. But the time appointed for labor is
to be narrowly examined, otherwise you may imagine, that since there are
only six hours appointed for work, they may fall under a scarcity of necessary
provisions. But it is so far from being true, that this time is not sufficient
for supplying them with plenty of all things, either necessary or convenient,
that it is rather too much; and this you will easily apprehend, if you
consider how great a part of all other nations is quite idle.
|Hythloday comments on how few people in Europe really work|
Then consider how few of those that work are employed in labors that are of real service; for we who measure all things by money, give rise to many trades that are both vain and superfluous, and serve only to support riot and luxury. For if those who work were employed only in such things as the conveniences of life require, there would be such an abundance of them that the prices of them would so sink that tradesmen could not be maintained by their gains; if all those who labor about useless things were set to more profitable employments, and if all they that languish out their lives in sloth and idleness, every one of whom consumes as much as any two of the men that are at work, were forced to labor, you may easily imagine that a small proportion of time would serve for doing all that is either necessary, profitable, or pleasant to mankind, especially while pleasure is kept within its due bounds.
This appears very plainly in Utopia, for there, in a great city, and in all the territory that lies round it, you can scarce find 500, either men or women, by their age and strength, are capable of labor, that are not engaged in it; even the syphogrants, though excused by the law, yet do not excuse themselves, but work, that by their examples they may excite the industry of the rest of the people. The like exemption is allowed to those who, being recommended to the people by the priests, are by the secret suffrages of the syphogrants privileged from labor, that they may apply themselves wholly to study; and if any of these fall short of those hopes that they seemed at first to give, they are obliged to return to work. And sometimes a mechanic, that so employs his leisure hours, as to make a considerable advancement in learning, is eased from being a tradesman, and ranked among their learned men. Out of these they choose their ambassadors, their priests, their tranibors, and the prince himself, anciently called their Barzenes, but is called of late their Ademus.
And thus from the great numbers among them that are neither suffered
to be idle, nor to be employed in any fruitless labor, you may easily make
the estimate how much may be done in those few hours in which they are
obliged to labor. But besides all that has been already said, it is to
be considered that the needful arts among them are managed with less labor
than anywhere else. The building or the repairing of houses among us employ
many hands, because often a thriftless heir suffers a house that his father
built to fall into decay, so that his successor must, at a great cost,
repair that which he might have kept up with a small charge: it frequently
happens that the same house which one person built at a vast expense is
neglected by another, who thinks he has a more delicate sense of the beauties
of architecture; and he suffering it to fall to ruin, builds another at
no less charge. But among the Utopians all things are so regulated that
men very seldom build upon a new piece of ground; and are not only very
quick in repairing their houses, but show their foresight in preventing
their decay: so that their buildings are preserved very long, with but
little labor, and thus the builders to whom that care belongs are often
without employment, except the hewing of timber and the squaring of stones,
that the materials may be in readiness for raising a building very suddenly
when there is any occasion for it.
|Utopians all wear the same clothes|
Nor is there anything that can tempt a man to desire more; for if he had them, he would neither be the warmer nor would he make one jot the better appearance for it. And thus, since they are all employed in some useful labor, and since they content themselves with fewer things, it falls out that there is a great abundance of all things among them: so that it frequently happens that, for want of other work, vast numbers are sent out to mend the highways. But when no public undertaking is to be performed, the hours of working are lessened. The magistrates never engage the people in unnecessary labor, since the chief end of the constitution is to regulate labor by the necessities of the public, and to allow all the people as much time as is necessary for the improvement of their minds, in which they think the happiness of life consists.