Robert Owen

Robert Owen was both a British social reformer and socialist who believed environment to be what moulded individual character and that environment could be improved by the cooperative efforts of all classes of society; socialism, therefore is the community of a new world order. A wealthy cotton manufacturer, he believed that individualism and competition could result in destruction of class warfare and would prove harmful to society. Owen argued that workers with better living conditions, better pay, and shorter hours would be more efficient and productive. He introduced the innovations of community self-government and profit-sharing, and emphasized community and cooperation. Owen believed that the cooperation of workers would establish a new social order, and thus he established Britain's first country-wide union, the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union. Owen became famous for his model factory at New Lanark in Scotland. There he refused to employ young children, provided education to older ones, limited hours of work, and assured that decent housing was provided. In 1827, Owen coined the term "socialism" to describe his experiment. Owen's vision of communal reorganization, not only of production but of all social life summed up the aims of many of the early socialists.