Our wonderful words series features terms that may not be well known, but that are odd and marvelous.
This wonderful word offers a wonderful notion. It describes a utopian community where all have equal rule. Plus everyone is equal in social position and responsibility. The word was formed from the Greek panto– (meaning “all”) and isokratia (meaning “equality of power”), so it’s an all-governing society.
This utopia was envisioned by English poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and Robert Southey (1774-1843) at a time of political turmoil in Britain. The idea sprouted in their minds in 1793-1794, in reaction to greed among men and disillusionment with the French Revolution, which had erupted a few years earlier.
This egalitarian society was designed by the poets to be void of all prejudices. To rid their lives of the constraints they felt in England, they decided the pantisocracy should be established in Pennsylvania (USA) on the banks of the Susquehanna River. According to historian and author Simon Court, they imagined it as “a society of commonly owned property, communal labour and equal government by both men and women, whilst all delighting in idyllic pastoral seclusion”.
Needless to say, the project was never realized and remained a dream. Nevertheless, Coleridge wrote two sonnets in 1794 on the subject, Pantisocracy and On the Prospect of Establishing a Pantisocracy in America.
On the Prospect of Establishing a Pantisocracy in America
Whilst pale Anxiety, corrosive Care,
The tear of Woe, the gloom of sad Despair,
And deepen’d Anguish generous bosoms rend; —
Whilst patriot souls their country’s fate lament;
Whilst mad with rage demoniac, foul intent,
Embattled legions Despots vainly send
To arrest the immortal mind’s expanding ray
Of everlasting Truth; — I other climes
Where dawns, with hope serene, a brighter day
Than e’er saw Albion in her happiest times,
With mental eye exulting now explore,
And soon with kindred minds shall haste to enjoy
(Free from the ills which here our peace destroy)
Content and Bliss on Transatlantic shore.