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Retirement in Utopia: William Morris’s Senescent Socialism

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This essay argues that William Morris’s work displaces an implicit youthful bias in theories of utopia and socialism by making senescence a structuring principle of his ideal society. For Morris, capitalist age ideology stratifies the lifespan into zones of youth and old age, usefulness and excess, and he perceived the rising reformist socialism—like that of H. G. Wells or Edward Bellamy—as reproducing this hierarchy by demanding shorter intervals of work and early retirement. Viewing the superannuation of workers as emblematic of capitalist waste, Morris annexes senescence from the realm of excess and non-productivity, expanding the horizon of revolutionary possibility beyond that of youth and theorizing utopia around networks of dependence and generational reciprocity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jewusiak J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: ELH

Year: 2019

Volume: 86

Issue: 1

Pages: 245-266

Print publication date: 06/03/2019

Online publication date: 06/03/2019

Acceptance date: 01/01/2018

Date deposited: 15/11/2020

ISSN (print): 0013-8304

ISSN (electronic): 1080-6547

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press


DOI: 10.1353/elh.2019.0009


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