Monday, January 30, 2012

Robert Owen, New Lanark and New Harmony

Robert Owen

Robert Owen was the owner of a cotton factory that worked with water power in New Lanark, Scotland. He was strongly influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment and he decided to improve the lives of his workers and show that it was possible to get profits without exploiting workers. In New Lanark Owen created a community where the rights of workers were respected, they had access to cooperative shops, decent housing, free medical care and children could go to school (New Lanark´s school was the first infants´ school created in Great Britain). Children under 10 years were not allowed to work, there were also evening lessons for adults and all type of activities for the workers´ leisure time (concerts, dancing, music).

New Lanark at present

In 1825 he left New Lanark and tried to extend his ideas of improving the life of workers through common property and cooperation to the U.S.A. He founded a new community called New Harmony in Indiana. Private property and money were abolished and they created a system similar to time banks. Workers received banknotes equivalent to the time they had worked and they could exchange them for different goods. Owen worked hard to make New Harmony a model society, but this experience failed due to different factors: the most important one was the lack of commitment of many of the individuals who joined the community. 

New Harmony, painted by F. Bate

In 1828 Robert Owen left the project and came back to Great Britain. He dedicated his efforts to workers´ organization and his role was fundamental in the creation of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, a group that included all the British unions. After this, Owen continued to promote co-operative movement, although some of his projects failed. That´s why Owen has been included among utopian socialists. These thinkers had the idea that human beings are willing to co-operate and work for the community wellbeing. The fact is that these experiences failed due to individualism.

If you want to learn more about Robert Owen´s experiences, here you have some links: 

- Robert Owen and New Lanark:

- New Harmony:

- Robert Owen Museum:

If you go to Scotland, you can visit New Lanark: 


Silvia Castiblanque Sánchez said...

Paqui! This post is very interesting and usefull for us. Because we know more things about the mens than today we have read about them. Although you don't are in the class you help us with post. You are "la pera limonera".

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

I hope you read all the extra posts I´m writing. As I can´t explain all these things in live, at least you can read them here. See you soon, I hope.