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Looking Backward 2000-1887 [Hardcover]

Edward Bellamy , John L. Thomas
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1967 The John Harvard Library
Originally published in 1888, Looking Backward is Edward Bellamy's most famous work. The story revolves around Julian West, a man who falls asleep near the end of the 19th century and wakes up in the year 2000. During the time he slept, the United States became a socialist utopia. The majority of the book is a vehicle for Bellamy to expound upon his ideas about societal improvement. Americans in his year 2000 work fewer hours, retire early, and receive all they need from the government. Entertaining and oddly prophetic in some ways, Bellamy's vision of the future from the perspective of the late 19th century is highly engaging. American author EDWARD BELLAMY (1850-1898) also wrote Dr. Heidenhoff's Process (1880), Equality (1897), and The Duke of Stockbridge (1900).
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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"There is no better book than Looking Backward for understanding the intersecting private and public spheres in Victorian America. This is easily the best edition on the market, thanks to the fine introduction that puts Bellamy in the sweep of utopian writing, the nice selection of contemporary responses, and the excerpts from Bellamy's 'Religion of Solidarity' and Equality." (Richard Fox)

"This edition is set apart from all other editions by Alex MacDonald's excellent introduction and annotations and an excellent selection of related texts." (Lyman Tower Sargent, editor of Utopian Studies)

"This edition is extremely welcome. The introduction is clear and accessible, and both situates the text historically and stresses its continuing relevance. Above all, the additional texts provide supporting material that makes this edition a truly invaluable resource." (Ruth Levitas) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888) is one of the most influential utopian novels in English. The narrative follows Julian West, who goes to sleep in Boston in 1887 and wakes in the year 2000 to find that the era of competitive capitalism is long over, replaced by an era of co-operation. Wealth is produced by an "industrial army" and every citizen receives the same wage. This edition contains a rich selection of appendices, including excerpts from Bellamy's Equality and other writings; contemporary responses (by William Morris, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others); excerpts from utopian works by Morris and William Dean Howells; and an excerpt from Henry George's Progress and Poverty. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy April 29 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Like most Utopias, Edward Bellamy illustrates his ideal society through a light narrative designed to both deliver his point and entertain the reader; in this case, the narrative evolves from suspense (kinda) into, of course, a love story. The tale centers around Julian West, a bourgeoisie-of-sorts from late 19th century society, whose hypnotic sleep leaves him lying peacefully until he is awoken in the year 2000 by a doctor and his family. The plot is obviously not meant to be particularly realistic, but as framework for Bellamy to build his theory upon it serves him quite well.
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The title, "Looking Backward" is derived from the dialogue between the main character and the family that found him, throughout which aspects from the "current" society of the year 2000 are contrasted with that of the past. The dialogue evolves to include Bellamy's theories on economics, production, political agendum and other less defined, though no less well-conceived, philosophies on social direction and operation. I found it most interesting that he was able to foresee the rise of corporations and their monopoly over production and distribution at a time when industrialism was at its infancy.
I could write pages upon pages about the ideas in Looking Backward, but instead I'll just point you to the text itself. As a reviewer, one is always tempted to incorporate their own bias into the review. For instance, I have read reviews of this book that dismiss it for promotion of what later became known as socialism.
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2.0 out of 5 stars ...not in our lifetimes, if ever.... Aug. 13 2011
By Ronald W. Maron TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While it is always enjoyable to view humanity from a different perspective, whether through dystopic novels or texts that deal with philosophy or theoretical physics, this book was somewhat less than what I had hoped for. It is basically an instructional manual on the merits of socialism/communism that is lightly veiled as being a futuristic novel. The author's writing style is highly pedantic and authoritarian and, while he has humanity's best intentions before him, he left this reader less than impressed and rather bored through most of his stilted presentation.

The idyllic view that he has of the world is one where there is total equality and on-going happiness amongst all men. All areas of monetary reward, gender biases, national armed forces, educational opportunities, religious interests, etc... have all been resolved and equalized for the benefit of all. There is very little information on how the US was able to create such an arena of bliss without massive internal resistance nor is there any regret on the citizenry's part for what was lost during or after the transition. Instead, the author sees such a transition as being quite natural and accepting by all persons involved. By viewing it in this manner Mr. Bellamy negates a number of evolutionary traits that mankind has developed throughout the ages regardless of how distasteful they may seem to any of us. Darwin clearly defined areas such as survival of the fittest, defensive anger, paternalism, boundary protection and competitive pursuits as being traits that allowed the species to regenerate itself through the successful leaving of viable offspring. And, while I agree that most of these traits are non-harmonious and that they do cause personal stress, they did lead to the successful continuation of the species.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A warmly human and enlightening read Feb. 3 2003
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Having never really heard of this novel or its author before, I was rather surprised to discover how immensely popular it was at the end of the nineteenth century. Edward Bellamy does an excellent albeit sometimes pedantic job of communicating his socioeconomic views and provides an interesting and informative read, despite the fact that the utopia of his fictional creation is a socialist nightmare in the realm of my own personal philosophy. It is very important to understand the time in which Bellamy was writing, especially for a conservative-minded thinker such as myself who holds many of Bellamy's views as anathema. It was the mid-1880s, a time of great social unrest; vast strikes by labor unions, clashes between workers and managers, a debilitating economic depression. Bellamy, to his credit, in no way comes off as holier than thou; his wealthy protagonist recognizes his own responsibility in seeing the world in the eyes of the more prosperous classes, basically ignoring the plights of the poor and downtrodden, having inherited rather than earned the money he is privileged to enjoy, etc. This makes the character's observations and conclusions very impactful upon the reader.
While I do respect Bellamy's views and understand the context in which they germinated, I cannot help but describe his future utopia as nothing less than naïve, socialistic, unworkable, and destructive of the individual spirit. Indeed, it sounds to me like vintage Soviet communism, at least in its ideals. Bellamy is a Marxist with blinders on. I should describe the actual novel at this point. The protagonist, an insomniac having employed a mesmerist to help him sleep through the night, finds himself waking up not the following morning in 1887 but in a completely changed world in 2000.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
The author Edward Bellamy was the cousin of Francis Bellamy the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, which expresses the ideas Edward Bellamy's socialist utopian novels. Read more
Published on April 12 2007 by Institute for Journalism
1.0 out of 5 stars Looking Backward at totalitarianism
The author Edward Bellamy was the cousin of Francis Bellamy the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, which expresses the ideas Edward Bellamy's socialist utopian novels. Read more
Published on April 20 2004 by Rex Curry
1.0 out of 5 stars Paint Drying is more interesting
Having been forced to read "Looking Backward" by Edward Bellamy, for a American History class, I can safely say that there are some parts that are interesting, but most... Read more
Published on March 24 2004 by David R Good
3.0 out of 5 stars too dogmatic
The problem I have with this book is the problem I have with most "theory through fiction" books, specifically that it isn't very well written and just comes across as... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars "Looking Backward at Socialism" by RexCurry.net
Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward" is about a man who sleeps from 1887 until the year 2000. The United States has become one giant socialist monopoly (excuse the redundancy). Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Rex Curry
3.0 out of 5 stars Compare this to "Time Machine"
I grew up on science fiction, and many years ago read this book and was utterly unimpressed. Over the years, at SF conventions, I would ask other fans if they had read this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2003 by W Boudville
3.0 out of 5 stars A persistent favorite and an interesting view of Utopia
This book is a persistent favorite, and I admit to enjoying it tremendously as a school student. However, "Looking Backward" would not be read today if it weren't for... Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2002 by Joanna Daneman
4.0 out of 5 stars Vision of a better world.
Looking Backwards is science fiction, like all good science fiction it is not about the future but about the times that it was written in. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by Joseph Cox
4.0 out of 5 stars Vision of a better world.
Looking Backwards is science fiction, like all good science fiction it is not about the future but about the times that it was written in. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by Joseph Cox
4.0 out of 5 stars Vision of a better world.
Looking Backwards is science fiction, like all good science fiction it is not about the future but about the times that it was written in. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by Joseph Cox
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