Utopia as a sustainable world
Morris’s News from Nowhere places heavy emphasis on utopia as a sustainable world—a “green” world. Our narrator, Guest, speaks of going from an old, broken down, rather aesthetically displeasing London into a world where all is bright and neat and beautiful. There is no “big city” atmosphere, clogging the minds or smogging the air, and where there were once cities there are now flourishing gardens. “It is now a garden, where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt, with the necessary dwellings, sheds, and workshops scattered up and down the country, all trim and neat and pretty” (pg 61). This quote speaks of the reclamation of an “ill-kept, poverty stricken farm” surrounding villages fashioned much in the way of fortresses. The citizens of Nowhere realized that the world, life, does not revolve around people—the society became ecocentric, implying the awareness that the world was not created solely for humans; humans are simply a part of the world that was created.
In Martin Delveaux’s article from 2005, he explains how Nowhere is a “bioregional utopia,” meaning that it and the people within it do not distort the earth to meet human demands. There is an understanding of a certain coexistence between Man and Nature—the “back to nature, back to the land” philosophies from Morris’s era, which state, basically, that people live “in harmony and with sensitivity toward nature,” and also that there is a prevalent “dissatisfaction with urban-industrial society” coupled with a “sympathy for things rural and natural.” This desire for “things natural” is evident throughout News from Nowhere, and, being a utopian depiction, one may conclude that Morris wanted to emphasize the idea that, in an ideal world, mankind would live sustainably within the means of what nature can provide, and not beyond them.
Capitalist & monetary systems as a societal detriment
Even at a glance, it is obvious that a running theme within News from Nowhere is that capitalism and monetary systems are detrimental to an ideal world. The people of Nowhere have no dealings in money, and they question Guest when he tries to offer any form of payment for the services or goods with which he is provided. They, the Nowhereians, work because this is where they derive their daily pleasure; no person does a job he or she does not want to do, and there are no shortages of work. The society’s system is based on the Marxist principle that it is “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” In the novel, Old Hammond explains:
The wares which we make are made because they are needed: men make for their neighbours’ use as if they were making for themselves, not for a vague market of which they know nothing, and over which that have no control: as there is no buying and selling, it would be mere insanity to make goods on the chance of their being wanted (pg 82).
People work as they are able in order to produce goods that are needed and necessary—nothing is made which has no demand. There is no economy to sustain, and no reason to produce beyond the demand of the people. Through this, we, the audience, can identify Morris’s distaste for the current state of economical systems and exchanges, threaded as an unavoidable theme within his novel.