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Robert Owen, Harmonic Passions and the Practice of Happiness
October 12 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Universal happiness was the goal of Robert Owen’s ‘new moral world’ or the ‘rational system of society’, and he promised to eradicate bad passions. If Owen’s story is well known, much less has been said about what, exactly, he meant by happiness. In Owenite formulation, happiness meant something quite specific and tended to be used relatively: in short, happiness denoted the absence of negative feelings, and was to be achieved in quite prescriptive ways. As this presentation will show, the feeling of happiness for Owenites was inseparable from its practice. Focusing on the tensions and contradiction in Owen’s formulation of happiness – and feelings more generally – sheds new light on the reasons why Owenism failed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Matthew Roberts is an Associate Professor in Modern British History at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. He is a historian of nineteenth-century Britain and the Anglophone Atlantic World, and works mainly on the history of popular politics and protest, the visual and material culture of politics and more recently the history of emotions. His book Chartism, Commemoration and the Cult of the Radical Hero was published by Routledge in 2020, and is now available in paperback. His talk on Robert Owen arises from his current book project, Democratic Passions: The Politics of Feeling in British Radicalism, 1809–1848, which will be published by Manchester University Press in May 2022.
Please register in advance for this program. To do so visit usi.edu/250virtual. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.