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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Morris' salutary alternative to industrial dystopia
This edition focuses primarily upon William Morris’ influential utopian romance News from Nowhere, and contains some useful notes for the reading of the text together with several other of his pieces relating to the themes of Earthly Paradise, the arts and crafts and the nature of work.
If News from Nowhere seems unfamiliar to most people now, it is perhaps not...
Published on 16 Nov 2003

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a novel, less than a theory
Left-wing writers sometimes claim Morris as a socialist to sit alongside the likes of Keir Hardie, a pioneer of the British labour movement. Reading this, his personal Utopia, reveals how far his ideas were from those of his working class contemporaries. Morris's ideal world skates over many obvious problems, and assumes much in the way of perfectability in human nature...
Published 20 months ago by Peasant


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Morris' salutary alternative to industrial dystopia, 16 Nov 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This edition focuses primarily upon William Morris’ influential utopian romance News from Nowhere, and contains some useful notes for the reading of the text together with several other of his pieces relating to the themes of Earthly Paradise, the arts and crafts and the nature of work.
If News from Nowhere seems unfamiliar to most people now, it is perhaps not so much due to its age than to the many successful novels written since that warn of the perils of striving blindly toward some Brave New World ideal. Yet News from Nowhere was itself written partly as a reaction to one such industrial utopia, namely Edward Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward’, and is perhaps more relevant today than at any time since its original publication in 1890. William Morris offers here a prophetic anticipation of the concerns of today’s growing environmental and ‘anti-globalisation’ movements.
Although others have presented Morris’ ideas as backward and Luddite, such labelling imparts a misleading picture of his views. Indeed, far from being a 'Luddite' Morris was quick to embrace the innovative Jacquard loom in his own workshops - a programmable punch-card system for automated weaving, and one of the precursors of modern computing. The irony inherent in such a label will not be lost on those familiar with the history of the Luddites.
Rather than denouncing technology News from Nowhere sees a world so technologically and socially advanced that it has surpassed any need for the industrial technology of Capital, ably providing for its own happiness and wellbeing without it. Progressive and sustainable technology is woven so seamlessly into its idyllic tapestry that if you were to blink you would easily miss it. And this is exactly the point Morris was making about the appropriate use of technology. Unpolluting, smokeless furnaces and silently powered barges drift by almost unnoticed as a group of friends make their way gently along the Thames by rowing boat - another technology perfectly suited to their own immediate needs and fancies.
The power and beauty of Morris' novel does not lie simply in the descriptions of the material environment of its imaginary society. Morris' vision is never so shallow. He is concerned above all with the quality of life of its inhabitants and the forms of social organisation that bequeath them its benefits, and how this contrasts so starkly with the forces of coercion and seduction that govern our own society. The inhabitants that Morris describes with such convincing lucidity are nurtured in a social environment founded upon a resurgence of vernacular values and an abandonment of institutionalised forms of control and exploitation. The fire of Morris' polemic being eloquently voiced through the dialogues of old Hammond in the heart of the novel.
If you are interested in a serious and profound analysis of our own society and the development of a saner view of the world then News from Nowhere will provide you with many pertinent insights. A testimony to the prescience of his vision, written as it was almost one hundred years before the environmental revolution in thinking that swept the world in the late 1980's and beyond, Morris provides us here with a very timely view of an alternative future to that promised by our own society, leading us as it is towards the brink of ruinous global turmoil.
This long neglected novel won’t fail to move the hearts of a new generation of readers who may be disillusioned with a life of stifling wage slavery and meaningless industrial consumption.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars William Morris' futuristic utopia based on Medieval ideals, 30 Aug 2004
By 
Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
William Morris is best known for his involvement in the Pre-Raphaelite movement and as one of the greatest European pattern-designers since the Middle Ages. He was also a campaigning socialist, a pioneering environmentalist, and a lyric poet, as well as a journalist and a storyteller with a penchant for making his dreams reality. Much of his prose writings focused on the theme of an earthly paradise, which is the subject of "News from Nowhere." First published in serial form in the "Commonweal" in 1890, this novella offers Morris' ideal future for England as a pastoral society born out of revolution. A true utopian vision of the future, it is largely forgotten in comparison to the dramatic dystopian works such as "Brave New World" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four," which have dominated the interest of scholars and students.
"News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest: being some chapters from a Utopian Romance" tells the story of a young Englishman who goes to bed one night in his London home and wakes up in a strange world where his "neighbors" talk about the year 2001 as thought it had happened in the past. Morris depicts an England where radical changes have altered not only the way things look but the key elements of the society, which is now structured according to the ideals of communism. This means a world without money or private property but with a perfect equality between all citizens who share in the daily labor.
In addition to these common features of a utopian society, Morris argues that labor would be regarded as a pleasure rather than as a chore. This is possible because in the ideal world Morris envisions every citizen does the job that matches their skills and is able to take pride in the fruit of their labors. Consequently, for Morris "work" is more akin to "art," specifically in terms of the Medieval idea of individual workmanship, where even the production of a dish was celebrated as an art form. Towards this end Morris creates a future where humanity has eliminated all but the simplest forms of machinery, forcing a reliance on the individual skins of the workman. Even the city of London becomes a collection of villages in this post-industrial utopia.
At one point an old man who had studied the revolution explains what happened, which is where "News from Nowhere" gives Morris the opportunity to comment on the injustices he perceives in his own society. The revolution came when the conflict between workers and the state became violent. Unions had banded together in larger organizations and when the establishment ordered unarmed protesters to be gunned down and the workers decided to fight back. In many ways the story Morris tells through his character clearly predicts some of the conflicts that would take place between labor and the state around the world in the decades to come, but there is also a strong affinity with the story of the French Revolution.
Ultimately, "News from Nowhere" is a combination of Morris' ideal of the Medieval workman as a happy artisan and his socialist beliefs. The irony for utopian scholarship is that while Morris was prompted by "Looking Backward" to write "News from Nowhere" as a refutation of Bellamy's reliance on the modern institutions of technology and complex organizations, but today the two works are seen as being kindred spirits because they both predict a brighter future for humanity. Still, it is became Morris is looking backward from the end of the 19th century to the past to find the ideal state that should be achieved in the future, that "News From Nowhere" is one of the most atypical examples of utopian literature.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a novel, less than a theory, 19 Jan 2013
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Left-wing writers sometimes claim Morris as a socialist to sit alongside the likes of Keir Hardie, a pioneer of the British labour movement. Reading this, his personal Utopia, reveals how far his ideas were from those of his working class contemporaries. Morris's ideal world skates over many obvious problems, and assumes much in the way of perfectability in human nature. He isn't a particularly skilled writer of "fiction" (this is in no meaningful sense a novel) and, after starting with an appealling bang, the book gets bogged down and becomes rather heavy going as time passes. It isn't something most people would read for pure enjoyment, but it is important, if you wish to have an insight into Morris's place in late 19th century reform, to have read it.

Morris himself came from a privileged capitalist background - his father had made a fortune by wise (or lucky) investment - and his experience of the evils of industrialisation was that of an observer, not a victim. He had a highly romanticised sensibility and felt that, if his ideas could only be widely put into action, the world would become a paradise of fairness and beauty. His practical attempts, though today we cherish the results in the shape of the beautiful objects and designs created, had little impact on 19th century industrialism. His craftman-made objects were eye-wateringly expensive, accessible only to well-heeled idealists like himself. Meanwhile, the benefits of modern technology became available to ordinary people because of, not despite, the increased efficiency of factory production.

The alert reader may consider that the way of doing things described in "News from Nowhere" could not, in practice, bring the benefits of science, research and modern medicine to an egalitarian citizenry in the way he hoped. Morris's world is essentially a cleaned up, better-educated medeival one. Though he campaigned tirelessly and helped raise awareness of the need for reform, it was not his way forward, in the end, which brought labouring people from out of the darkness into the light.
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6 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very good, 27 Oct 2004
This review is from: News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
you love it or hate it no inbetween
i couldnt put it down and swear to read again too
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News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)
News from Nowhere and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by William Morris (Paperback - 24 Jun 1993)
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