Robert Owen quotes

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Robert Owen

Birthdate: 14. May 1771
Date of death: 17. November 1858

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Robert Owen was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropic social reformer, and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen is best known for his efforts to improve the working conditions of his factory workers and his promotion of experimental socialistic communities. In the early 1800s Owen became wealthy as an investor and eventual manager of a large textile mill at New Lanark, Scotland. In 1824 Owen travelled to America, where he invested the bulk of his fortune in an experimental socialistic community at New Harmony, Indiana, the preliminary model for Owen's utopian society. The experiment was short-lived, lasting about two years. Other Owenite utopian communities met a similar fate. In 1828 Owen returned to the United Kingdom and settled in London, where he continued to be an advocate for the working class. In addition to his leadership in the development of cooperatives and the trade union movement, he also supported passage of child labour laws and free, co-educational schools.

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Quotes Robert Owen

„My life was not useless; I gave important truths to the world, and it was only for want of understanding that they were disregarded. I have been ahead of my time.“

—  Robert Owen
Deathbed statement (November 1858), in response to a church minister who asked if he regretted wasting his life on fruitless projects; as quoted in Harold Hill : A People's History http://www.haroldhill.org/section_two/section_two_page_one.htm (2004).

„It is confidently expected that the period is at hand, when man, through ignorance, shall not much longer inflict unnecessary misery on man; because the mass of mankind will become enlightened, and will clearly discern that by so acting they will inevitably create misery to themselves.“

—  Robert Owen
Context: It is confidently expected that the period is at hand, when man, through ignorance, shall not much longer inflict unnecessary misery on man; because the mass of mankind will become enlightened, and will clearly discern that by so acting they will inevitably create misery to themselves. As soon as the public mind shall be sufficiently prepared to receive it, the practical detail of this system shall be fully developed. For the extensive knowledge of the facts which present themselves on the globe, makes it evident to those whose reasoning faculties have not been entirely paralysed, that all mankind firmly believe, that everybody except themselves has been grievously deceived in his fundamental principles; and feel the utmost astonishment that the nations of the world could embrace such gross inconsistencies for divine or political truths. Most persons are now also prepared to understand, that these weaknesses are firmly and conscientiously fixed in the minds of millions, who, when born, possessed equal faculties with themselves. And although they plainly discern in others what they deem inconceivable aberrations of the mental powers, yet, in despite of such facts, they are taught to believe that they themselves could not have been so deceived; and this impression is made upon the infant mind with the greatest ease, whether it be to create followers of the most ignorant, or of the most enlightened systems.

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„Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building, in which formality predominates... But in the nursery, play-ground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and class-rooms.“

—  Robert Owen
Context: Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building, in which formality predominates... But in the nursery, play-ground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and class-rooms. …The facts collected from all these sources will be concentrated, explained, discussed, made obvious to all, and shown in their direct application to practice in all the business of life. 3rd Part

„It is not, however, to be imagined, that this free and open exposure of the gross errors in which the existing generation has been instructed, should be forthwith palatable to the world; it would be contrary to reason to form any such expectations.“

—  Robert Owen
Context: All that is now requisite, previous to withdrawing the last mental bandage by which hitherto the human race has been kept in darkness and misery, is, by calm and patient reasoning to tranquillize the public mind, and thus prevent the evil effects which otherwise might arise from the too sudden prospect of freely enjoying rational liberty of mind. To withdraw that bandage without danger, reason must be judiciously applied to lead men of every sect (for all have been in part abused to reflect that if untold myriads of beings, formed like themselves, have been so grossly deceived as they believe them to have been, what power in nature was there to prevent them from being equally deceived? Such reflections, steadily pursued by those who are anxious to follow the plain and simple path of reason, will soon make it obvious that the inconsistencies which they behold in all other sects out of their own pale, are precisely similar to those which all other sects can readily discover within that pale. It is not, however, to be imagined, that this free and open exposure of the gross errors in which the existing generation has been instructed, should be forthwith palatable to the world; it would be contrary to reason to form any such expectations. Yet, as evil exists, and as man cannot be rational, nor of course happy, until the cause of it shall be removed; the writer, like a physician who feels the deepest interest in the welfare of his patient, has hitherto administered of this unpalatable restorative the smallest quantity which he deemed sufficient for the purpose. He now waits to see the effects which that may produce. Should the application not prove of sufficient strength to remove the mental disorder, he promises that it shall be increased, until sound health to the public mind be firmly and permanently established.

„It is the interest of the individual and of all society, that he should be made, at the earliest period, to understand his own construction, the proper use of its parts, and how to keep them at all times in a state of health“

—  Robert Owen
Context: It is the interest of the individual and of all society, that he should be made, at the earliest period, to understand his own construction, the proper use of its parts, and how to keep them at all times in a state of health; and especially that he should be taught to observe the varied effects of different kinds of food, and different quantities, upon his own constitution. He should be taught the general and individual laws of health, thus early, that he may know how to prevent the approach of disease. And the knowledge of the particular diet best suited to his constitution, is one of the most essential laws of health. 3rd Part

„Women will be no longer made the slaves of, or dependent upon men ... They will be equal in education, rights, privileges and personal liberty.“

—  Robert Owen
Context: Women will be no longer made the slaves of, or dependent upon men... They will be equal in education, rights, privileges and personal liberty. Sixth Part

„All the measures now proposed are only a compromise with the errors of the present systems; but as these errors now almost universally exist, and must be overcome solely by the force of reason“

—  Robert Owen
Context: All the measures now proposed are only a compromise with the errors of the present systems; but as these errors now almost universally exist, and must be overcome solely by the force of reason; and as reason, to effect the most beneficial purposes, makes her advance by slow degrees, and progressively substantiates one truth of high import after another, it will be evident, to minds of comprehensive and accurate thought, that by these and similar compromises alone can success be rationally expected in practice. For such compromises bring truth and error before the public; and whenever they are fairly exhibited together, truth must ultimately prevail.

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„The lowest stage of humanity is experienced when the individual must labour for a small pittance of wages from others.“

—  Robert Owen
Paper Dedicated to the Governments of Great Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and the United States of America (1841).

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