In Tommaso Campanella’s document, The City of the Sun, a new social order is introduced amongst the Solarians. Campanella presents his readers with a utopian society that is ordered by rationality and reason. This ideal visionary is a redeemed world, free from injustice and competition in the market structure. Campanella, however, grew up in a society that was exploited and based on irrational principles. Campanella, therefore, reconstructs a society that operates in opposition to the one that he considers to be corrupt and irrational. The document, The City of the Sun, can be used to critically compare the social and political order that exists today. Moreover, Campanella’s work reveals the weaknesses that exist in today’s society and its structure.
One characteristic of this utopian society is its system of meritocracy. In this system, positions of power are determined by one’s ability and excellence; factors such as gender or social class do not result in positions of leadership. For example, leaders and ministers are chosen according to which individuals learn the greatest number of skills and practices them best. Individuals who work extremely hard and acquire knowledge are judged to have the greatest nobility. Moreover, the Solarians have a Prince Prelate called Sun. Sun is elected by knowing a significant amount of information in diverse academic fields. For example, he must know all the mechanical arts and the mathematical, physical, and astrological sciences.
In his dialogue, Campanella stresses the importance of acquiring knowledge in this ideal city. He demonstrates this by describing the position of the Prince Prelate: “Once appointed, his tenure lasts until someone with greater knowledge and greater ability to rule is discovered (Campanella 45)”. Therefore, those who wish to live in great power, must strive for this achievement in the area of academics. Also, ones level of knowledge determines the pursuit of happiness an individual will receive in the city of the Sun. The Solarians are granted the opportunity to alter their status if they desire, and live a life according to their standards.
Campanella directly criticizes the society he grew up in by stating in his dialogue, why the Solarians mock the material world for the way it is structured:
Thus they laugh at us because we consider craftsmen ignoble and assign nobility to those who are ignorant of every craft and live in idleness, keeping a host of dissolute and idle servants about them to the great detriment of the state (Campanella 43).
Today, similar patterns emerge as specific races, as well as females, endure the hardships of being exposed to discrimination. These individuals are restrained from achieving success or power, and are often restricted in their educational opportunities. Not every person born into society is entitled to an education, for several members are unable to pursue an education due to financial barriers. Often these victims are bright and intellectually capable of achieving positions of leadership; however, they still remain at the bottom of the hierarchy. On the other hand, the Solarians are all granted an equal opportunity to receive an education and become successful.
The social order that exists today seems to be very irrational in comparison to Campanella’s utopia. In the dialogue, The City of the Sun, people are given an equal opportunity to pursue a lifestyle that is desirable to them; they are not born into misfortune. Moreover, the Solarians are encouraged to realize their full potential and enhance their skills. In present day societies, minorities and females are discouraged from reaching their ultimate goals in life.
Since Campanella is aware of the social structure that exists outside of his utopian city, he presents two reasons why rulers are chosen in a corrupt society:
We have greater certainty than you do that so learned a man does know how to govern, since it is your custom to exalt the ignorant either because they are nobly born or because some powerful faction chooses them (Campanella 45).
By analyzing Campanella’s document, it is evident that the real world is filled with corruption and injustice; this inevitably produces an ineffective system. Campanella, however, in his work seeks to eliminate any injustices and presents a harmonious, well-structured society.
Tommaso Campanella, The City of the Sun