Utopia: Novel Summary: Book II - Of their military discipline
Utopians detest war and do not believe in its so-called glory. They are willing to fight in defense of their nation or their friends, or to help another nation shake off tyranny, but only if they agree that all peaceful solutions have been exhausted. They refuse to share in any spoils of war. Both men and women are trained in military skills. If any nation commits a fraud against them, provided there is no violence in the case, they do not declare war on them, but merely cease trading with them. If a foreigner commits a violent act against a Utopian citizen, the Utopian ambassadors demand that they submit themselves to Utopian justice, whereupon they are enslaved.
If the Utopians do go to war, they try to obtain the victory in ways that do not involve bloodshed. They target those who are most guilty and try to avoid loss of innocent lives. As soon as they declare war, they put up posters in the enemy country offering large rewards to anyone who will kill the Prince or his supporters. This sows mistrust in the enemy country and weakens it. The Utopians feel that this is fair because it can shorten any war. If it fails, they bribe some of the nobility of the enemy country to seize the crown, or they bribe neighbor countries with a grudge against that country to attack it. Their aim is always to avoid shedding the blood of Utopian citizens, and with this in mind, they prefer to hire foreign mercenaries to do their fighting for them, paying them with the gold and silver that they obtain from exporting goods.
They do not force people into military service unless the country is invaded. Wives and families are allowed to accompany their husbands into battle if they wish, as it is believed that people fight better if they are defending those they love.
Some of the tactics used by the Utopians against an enemy country foreshadow Niccolo Machiavelli's (1469-1527) work The Prince, which was written around 1513, but not published until 1532. The Prince described the use of underhand methods for rulers to gain or maintain power. Utopian tactics include bribing the citizens of an enemy country to assassinate their leader and bribing leaders of other countries to attack Utopia's enemy. Machiavelli's work spawned an entire genre of political realism, whose central theme was "the ends justify the means." Machiavelli himself never wrote this phrase, though he did write, "One must consider the final result."
The Utopians' war tactics fit into this mold of political realism, though with an important difference. While the leaders on whom Machiavelli commented and the followers of Machiavellian tactics were motivated by the prospect of increasing the power, wealth, and influence of the state, the Utopians are motivated by the prospect of avoiding bloodshed as far as possible, and are not concerned with extending their power or increasing their wealth. Moreover, in Utopia, power lies with the individual, not the state.
Utopia Study GuideChoose to Continue
- Novel Summary
- Book I
- Book II - Geographical features of Utopia and agriculture
- Book II - Of their towns, particularly of Amaurot
- Book II - Of their magistrates
- Book II - Of their trades, and manner of life
- Book II - Of their traffic
- Book II - Of the traveling of the Utopians
- Book II - Of their slaves, and of their marriages
- Book II - Of their military discipline
- Book II - Of the religions of the Utopians
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Essay Q&A