Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 390

Société, modes de vie

Theodor Hertzka’s Journey to the Ends of Africa


The 19th century saw a plethora of social utopias, either theoretical constructs (Charles Fourier’s phalanstery, for example) or more novelistic productions (cf. the works of Jules Verne, Edward Bellamy, Étienne Cabet etc.). Among these, Theodor Hertzka’s Freeland: A Social Anticipation, a book published in German in 1890 and translated into English in 1891, wholly deserves to have a short “Futures of Yesteryear” article devoted to it. In this article Bernard Cazes sketches the outlines of this free-market African utopia, set in present-day Kenya, the story of which is told by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Hertzka in two novels (the second a slimmed-down version of the first) that enjoyed genuine success in their day. After some investigation of the author’s geopolitical choices, Bernard Cazes emphasizes the originality of the socio-political framework advocated by Hertzka, particularly where political organization and the role of women are concerned. Lastly, he presents the economic strand of the utopia. This is, in his view, a little less impressive, but an evocation of the free circulation of labour emerges from it nonetheless.

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