Karl Marx (left), the father of communism, and Adam Smith (right), the father of capitalism, and Jeremy Bentham, the father of liberalism, were among the philosophical giants who contributed to the contest of ideas over Edward Gibbon Wakefield's vision of systematic colonisation of South Australia.

IDEAS OF KARL MARX, ADAM SMITH, JEREMY BENTHAM in philosophical contest over Edward Gibbon Wakefield's vision for South Australia


SOUTH AUSTRALIA WAS BORN OUT OF A SWIRL OF 19th CENTURY RADICAL PHILOSOPHY IN BRITAIN, with Edward Gibbon Wakefield's plan for the systemic colonisation of South Australia becoming a contest of ideas from major thinkers such as Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Others joined in the ferment of radical philosophical ideas of the early 19th Century Britain as an urban middle-class reform movement rose to challenge the established aristocrats who exercised their traditional control through huge land holdings amid mass poverty.  

Edward Gibbon Wakefield became the main proponent of solving Britain’s social problems by setting up colonies with an economic system that would produce a civilising effect and avoid past mistakes.

Wakefield’s ideas were entwined with those of the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who knew both Wakefield’s and John Mill, the economist father of John Stuart Mill, a supporter of the utopian ideals promoted by the National Colonisation Society.

The philosophy woven into Wakefield’s model for a colony in South Australia, also drawing on the Scottish Enlightenment ideas of economist/philosopher Adam Smith, was not radical to extent of trying to eliminate the divide between the middle class and labourers. The practical need for that divide, under Wakefield’s plan based on land sales, drew Karl Marx into the debate.

In the end, Wakefield’s ideas would be distorted by the philosophy of another economist: Robert Torrens.

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