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Robert Owen

Born: 14 May 1771

Died: 17 November 1858

Nationality: Welsh

Owen was a social reformer and one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement in Britain. His philosophy on life was based on two key ideas: first, people are a product of their heredity and environment, hence the importance of education and reform; second, all religions are based on the thought that human beings are weak and stupid.

In 1785, he was co-proprietor and director of a factory in New Lanark, created by David Dale and Richard Arkwright. Here he made some crucial changes, namely, his decision to reduce workers’ hours to 10.5 hours per day, which was a clear step forward since average working hours per worker before were 14-15 hours per day.

In 1817, his interest in care action evolved into a critique of capitalism. He tried to convince the British authorities, as well as foreign authorities, that there was need for reform in the manufacturing sector. In 1825 Owen founded the socialist colony of New Harmony, USA, which prospered in its early years, however, the colony ultimately failed and thus, he returned to London.

Robert Owen is without a doubt a Great Utopian as he furthered utopian thinking, utopian action and is a key figure in Utopian Socialism. He exemplified through his utopian societies and his thought that our human social nature is not fixed and, furthermore, that humans have the capacity to organise themselves into any type of society that they choose and can imagine.

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