Archives for category: Utopian and Dystopian visions

Commercial surrogacy is defended on five main principles. The first is its effective means of allowing childless couples to have children is considered to make it a significant good. Second, the rights for autonomous adults to procreate and form contracts are too fundamental to interfere with unless it causes a significant harm. Third the act of surrogacy is seen as altruistic and to be encouraged and finally, commercial surrogacy should be seen as no different to and consistent with already accepted practices in the reproduction and raising of children.

Anderson argues against these principles stating that commercial surrogacy makes women’s labor a commodity. By applying market norms to this labor it regards the woman’s body and her role as a mother as one of mere use. For Anderson, it is the worth and respect that should be given to a woman for her labor, with regard to gestation and childbirth, that is disregarded when commercial factors are applied. It does not regard the emotional impact of such labor and can be seen as a callous disregard of the impact that such intimate relationships as a mother and child has upon the woman and the child.  Anderson argues that the application of commercial norms requires a mother to repress her parental emotions and this is a degradation of human relationships.

The surrogacy industry follows the contracting-out-of-labour system that works in manufacturing industries. The attached problem to this method is that it must disregard the fundamental emotional requirement of parenthood, that of attachment to the child. The woman’s labor is alienated because of this factor and it is a factor that does not affect any other type of manufacturing process.  For Anderson, such a requirement to alienate oneself from one’s child is a demand that should be not be upheld as it turns a woman’s body into a major part of a commercial production process.

Anerson argues for commercial surrogacy by claiming that surrogacy is inspired by altruistic motives. He argues that if there is nothing wrong with altruistic surrogacy, there should be nothing wrong with commercial surrogacy as it applies to a woman’s labor. Anerson states that Anderson promotes a woman’s labor as noble labor and that the commercialisation of this labor is degrading. He then argues that many kinds of noble labor is done for commercial exchange and cannot see why a woman’s labor should be seen differently.

Anerson states that as long as there is no fraud or misrepresentation in a surrogacy contract a woman who wishes to render her surrogate services should be free to sign it, just as if she wishes to supply a babysitting service. Anerson also argues that although the surrogate contract might stipulate that the woman not form an attachment to the child and this can be an alienating form of labor, alienating labor is not impermissible. Citizens should be free, Anerson contends, to arrange their work lives the way they wish.

  • Anderson, Elizabeth S. “Is women’s labor a commodity?” Philosophy and Public Affairs , 19:1 , 1990 , 71 – 92
  • Arneson, Richard. “Commodification and commercial surrogacy” Philosophy and Public Affairs , 21:2 , 1992 , 132-164

The modern state, which was born from the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, gave unrestricted control of the state to its rulers. This was the beginning of the concept of state sovereignty which is still dominant today. The most potent shaping forces in the contemporary world are the interactions of states when enforcing their interests, capabilities and goals. However, during the latter half of the twentieth century the supremacy of the state is under challenge. Global affairs are now dominated by intergovernmental organizations that transcend national boundaries. Global international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union have become independent global actors which implement their own foreign policies. Also groups of people carrying on various enterprises, such as multinational corporations, are examples of nongovernmental organizations which also transcend national boundaries and exert their influence globally.

Post Cold War, the United States has dominated world politics with the political scientist Francis Fukuyama even suggesting that it signalled ‘the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government’. However because of the ascendance of other great powers such as China, Japan, Russia and India others, such as the journalist and foreign policy advisor Fareed Zakaria, argue that a ‘post-American’ world has arisen through which many other state and nonstate actors direct and define global society’s responses to global challenges. While the United States remains the greatest military power, other dimensions are emerging industrially, financially, educationally, socially and culturally that are moving the globe away from American dominance.

Although some suggest that competition between states could be renewed as they jostle for power in commercial relations, they also manage their security relations collaboratively which can be seen through their cooperation in fighting terrorism. The danger of the polarization of these states into two antagonistic camps could be managed through newly developed international rules and institutions that can manage these mixed-motive relationships. Rather than a quest for hegemony, these great and emerging powers are active trading partners and the question arises will these commercial relationships reduce the potential for future military competition?

Multilateralism could be the approach that these great powers take to cooperate to achieve global solutions to problems that affect all of their citizens. In an ever shrinking global environment in which all actors are increasingly reliant upon each other, a new global system of power and responsibility is more widely distributed. How these great powers will make their choices about war and peace will affect all people and determine the fate of the world.

A new concept of responsible sovereignty is emerging which requires states not to protect only their own people but also to cooperate across borders to protect global resources and address transnational threats. This entails intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) providing a greater role which ‘differs from the traditional interpretation of sovereignty being non-interference in the internal affairs of state’. Global problems require global solutions and an increasingly greater number of non-state actors have arisen on the world stage to engineer adaptive global changes.

The United Nations is the most prominent IGO to have emerged in the last sixty years. Its Charter sets its agenda as the maintenance of peaceful and amicable relations between states based upon humanitarian values and the attainment of common ends through the harmonization of state actors. Although it is challenged by persistent financial troubles it is an adaptable and reforming institution that remains the forum of choice for negotiation and promotion of humanitarian concerns. Through its claim to represent ‘the collective will of humanity’ it is in the position to act on issues of global relevance such as shaming human rights violators, combating global pandemics, and promoting conflict-prevention measures.

Increasingly, NGOs are becoming more influential in global politics through their ability to lobby and influence international decision making. This activism is able to transcend the traditional distinctions between what is local and what is global. Five of the most visible types of NGOs are non-state entities that comprise of ethnic or indigenous peoples, transnational religious groups, transnational terrorist groups and multinational corporations. However, while these groups have a strong participation in world affairs some of their influence can often be minimised by differing groups pushing policies in opposing directions.

With the world being far more interdependent than ever before and transactions across state borders increasing through the movement of people, information and trade, non- state actors are becoming more important to the shared concepts of people across the globe. The centrality of the state as an insular actor is declining. Although our constructed images of global politics are resistant to change, change is possible through the reshaping of our insular perceptions. By ridding ourselves of false assumptions about other people we can reshape the future of world politics so that it does not rely on the insular attitudes of singular states but on the basis of a global people. As the philosopher Martin J. Siegel observes: “War for survival is the destiny of all species. In our case, we are courting suicide [by waging war against each other]”. It is the realisation of this by state leaders that will finally lead to the end of the concept of the sovereign state.

Affluent developed nations hold 14.9% of the world’s population but 79.7% of its aggregate global income[1]. Global inequalities are greater today than they were 50 to100 years ago even though the world has become more connected through globalisation[2] . This gap will continue to grow because of political and financial power[3]. Socioeconomic rights such as a standard of living that is adequate to provide health and well being for an individual and their family would require only a barely noticeable shift in the distribution of global income[4]. This is attributed to a Western ‘double standard’ by the political philosopher Thomas W. Pogge[5]. This essay will assert through the exploring some of Pogge’s work, and the theories of  his supporters and detractors, why a “double-standard” arises in regard to global justice and contend that those who live in such wealthy nations cannot justify the perpetuation of such a double-standard.

 Liberal political philosophy believes that all human beings are morally equal. These moral principles thus become moral benefits and burdens to all, formulated so as not to arbitrarily disadvantage or privilege certain persons or groups[6]. However, traditional liberal moral philosophy has held that equal treatment of individuals only pertains to the small nation state of which they are citizens, rather than the equality of the entire world population[7]. The justification of a domestic focus for moral equality has three forms. First it states that we must look after our own, which is a concept that originates in human affiliation and community ties[8]. Secondly, it argues that only nations can determine the administration of justice, and thirdly that the principles of distribution cannot work as well internationally as they can domestically[9].

The British philosopher Alaisdair MacIntyre argues that the morality of impartialism, which is the basis for global justice, runs counter to the morality of patriotism which generates moral reasons to be partial to one’s fellow citizens[10]. However, this argument even goes so far as to state that in a conflict over scarce resources that one’s community’s interests can be paramount over the interests of another community. The Israeli academic and politician Yael Tamir, argues that nationality is important for personal identity and self-understanding and needs a shared public space in which its culture can flourish and be protected[11]. However, the global liberalist, Michael Ignatieff, contends with this by stating that this type of ideal results in the least well-off having no meaningful right to any moral obligation merely because of their disenfranchisement [12]. Neither of these arguments establishes that a nation’s or a culture’s importance is paramount to the survival of other nations or cultures.

The American political philosopher, John Rawls, objects to global justice on the grounds that it is unacceptable for one people to bear certain costs of decisions made by another- such as decisions on industrialization or birth rate[13]. However, Pogge asserts that Rawls does not explain why this does not analogously relate to national societies as well[14]. Secondly, Rawls objects to the global application of liberal standards because there is a need to accommodate certain non-liberal societies[15]. Pogge counters this by stating that non-liberal societies and their populations tend to be poor but willing to cooperate in reforms that would bring global economic order ‘closer to meeting a liberal standard of economic justice’[16].

Pogge argues that people coexist through a system of global economics that aggravates great inequalities which demand global justice[17]. But the question then becomes should the same or different principles of justice apply on both national and international levels[18]? The fortune of where one is born should not entitle one to hold oneself distinct for equivalent moral treatment[19]. Pogge states that moral universalism, being equal moral status for all, is only applicable if it subjects all people to the same system of moral principles[20].

Although moral principles assign fundamental moral benefits and burdens to all, assertion of a ‘double standard’ refers to the contention that most people in affluent countries think that the global economic order is just- even though it does not meet the minimal requirements that we place on national economic order[21]. The first of these minimal requirements is that, allowing for justice, social rules should be free to peaceful change by the large majority on whom they are imposed[22].  Pogge states that the global economic order relies upon stability imposed by a non-elected state whose minority control the rules and depend upon the security of great military power[23].

In his book Global Justice (2001) Pogge states that wealthy societies contribute through the imposition of their own policies and the global economic institutions that they control, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to the denial of human rights in developing countries[24]. Pogge advocates that it is these wealthy nations’ responsibility to stop imposing a detrimental global economic order and to mitigate the harms caused by them[25]. To assert that it is a charity or a humanitarian need denies the fact that it is demand of justice and a moral duty that affluent nations are obligated to assist the human rights of the impoverished[26]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised”[27]. Because of this it can be argued that wealthy countries violate the rights of the poor in underdeveloped nations by collaborating with existing illegitimate governments and aggravating poverty, through protectionism, land and resource grabs, and denial of agricultural and medical technology[28]. The resource base upon which all economies of the world depend give wealthy nations benefits which poorer nations are excluded from. These inequalities are perpetuated by a global system that still reflects the basis of colonialism[29].

The legitimacy of the social system goes to the heart of the ideals of liberal justice, therefore a global society requires an examination of the means of global morality, such as the form and nature that such a society would take[30]. Rawls argues for two principles that should govern the formation of a just society: a) the principle of equal liberty where each person has an equal right to liberty and b) the difference principle where socio-economic inequalities are arranged so that they are both a benefit to the least advantaged and give equality of opportunity to all instruments of power[31]. Pogge argues that if the difference principle was applied on a global level, it would imply that global inequalities are unjust[32].

Pogge argues that economic, trade and cultural links between the individuals of various nations are enough to form a system of global cooperation[33]. Pogge, in particular, argues that there are sufficient institutional relationships of trade and law to allow a single global system of trade and justice[34]. He states that what follows from the application of such a system is an ‘international pluralism’ which allows respect for other states’ methods of economic organisation[35]. The application of a difference principle could then be applied internationally to allow a just maximization for the expectation of the global poor[36]. Pogge propositions that a system of federal globalism could be possible whereby a state may favour its own citizens as long as it acts under an international jurisdiction and that both international and  national institutions can work together to produce a just, economic order[37].

A system of global justice is not only a necessity but it is also a priority. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed at the United Nations by all wealthy developed nations in 1948[38]. Since that time the essential articles of that Declaration have been ignored and global inequality has grown.  The Declaration was based on the liberal ideal that all humans are morally equal and that one’s nationality or race should not hold one distinct for unfair or beneficial treatment. Despite this, the wealthy nations of the world continue to oppose a harsh economic order upon the global poor so that their own positions of power will be maintained. The double standard is that while Western wealthy nations think that the global economic order is just, it does not even meet the minimum standards of their own national concept of moral equality. This can be addressed through the global cooperative systems that are in place today and need only the desire of wealthy nations to mitigate the damage that they have perpetrated by ceding a small portion of their sovereignty to a federal global system that can build a fair and just economic order.


  1. Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), pp. 95-112.
  2. Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 91-2; 94-101;108-117.
  1. Blake, Michael, “International Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;  Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney
  3. Pogge T. W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Ed. Thomas Pogge, Blackwell Publishing Oxford pp.6-23
  1. Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”, Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Universal Declaration Of Human Rights- Retrieved: 10 August 2011
  3. Walker M. Dr., 2011, Lecture 20, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney

[1] Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University

[2] Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), p.95

[3] ibid

[4] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, p.92

[5] ibid

[6] ibid:93

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid


[13] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.105

[14] ibid

[15] ibid:106

[16]Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.107

[17] Pogge, T.W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.14

[18] Walker M. Dr., Lecture 20,  2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University

[20] Pogge, T., (2002), World Poverty and Human Rights p.93

[21] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[22] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[23] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[24] Pogge, T.W., (2001) “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.12

[25] ibid:22

[26] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”,

[27] ibid

[28] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”,

[29] ibid

[31] Walker M. Dr., 2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society

[32] ibid


[36] ibid

[37] ibid

Utopia is synonymous with the ultimate human hope of a rational effort to remake the human environment. Sir Thomas More, who coined the word, explained that it referred to either the Greek word ‘eutopia’, meaning good place, or ‘outopia’, meaning no place (Mumford, L., 2003:1). After the Industrial Revolution and the growth of dystopic towns and cities, the idea of Utopia became more prevalent. Socialism was an attempt to reinvent society into a cooperative experiment, rather than the free-enterprise system of market capitalism. These two diametrically opposed political philosophies stood at the basis of the utopias that were conceptualized and designed by the architects Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in the twentieth century.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was interested in designing affordable homes for the middle class of the USA, he was also interested in urban planning. By the late 1920s he put forward an ideal environment called Broadacre City. To Wright, home ownership was a moral and political value that could produce a more harmonious society. Along with car-ownership, he believed modern communication would provide society with the end of centralized urban environments. In Broadacre City he envisaged a vast semi-rural landscape covering the entire continent. Decentralized in organization, self-sufficient in supply, republican in constitution and populated by car-owning citizens, it was centred on a homestead placed upon one acre of cultivated land. Wright considered that this plan would allow the community to be based upon family values, spirituality and knowledge. The marketplace would be in the shape of trade by barter between proprietors, or an agricultural fair. It would also be a community in which everyone would do everything; farming, industrial work, craftwork etc…; this would give work a self-fulfilling nature. There would be no administration other than the architect himself who would plan the city and settle its affairs (

Le Corbusier’s Radiant City was a further development of the Contemporary City that he conceptualized in the 1920s. He constructed his model on the basis of a perfectly symmetrical grid of streets, with two right-angled superhighways intersecting at the centre of the city. An elaborate transportation system encompassing subways, access roads, railroads and an airport would also intersect at the city centre. Divided into functionally classified sectors, around this central terminal would be the skyscrapers of the business centre of the whole region. It would cover less than 15 percent of the ground with the rest devoted to parks and gardens. The structure of the residential areas would have the elite leaders of the society in luxurious high rise in the centre, whilst the workers would live in garden apartments on the outskirts. These dwellings would be jointly owned by the residents and run as a cooperative. The satellite towns would be grouped into larger garden units with the surrounding areas left free for lawns, playing fields and gardens. The proletariat’s eight hours of factory labour, essential for the maintenance of living standards, would be overcome by eight hours of leisure in the satellite city’s recreational facilities. The entire city would be run by a dictatorial system directed by the elite industrialists of the city, as in a corporation (Fishman, R., 1982:332)

The differences between these conceptual utopias were many, the first being Wright’s determination of private ownership in Broadacre City. Even though both Wright and Corbusier realised the need for an efficient transport system, Corbusier’s was based upon a vast public network, whilst Wright advocated private car-ownership. Wright’s society was semi-rural and self-sufficient in supply, relying upon the market, whereas Corbusier’s advocated a high-rise, corporate industrialized system. Furthermore, Corbusier envisaged a symmetrical, hierarchical society while Wright’s was individualistic and egalitarian. It seems that Corbusier’s vision was the one to become the model for contemporary 21st century cities. The similarities of both societies lie upon their non-democratic systems of leadership.

Bibliography: Retrieved 16.9.08

Fishman, R. 1982, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century, MIT Press  Retrieved: 20.9.08

Mumford, L. 2003, The Story of Utopias, Kessinger Publishing




Francisco Goya, “The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters” Los Caprichos

Goya’s prints and paintings survive with terrifying force because they castigate not merely the superstitions of eighteenth century Spaniards but all the malevolent powers of bigotry…’ (Tomory, P.A., p.80). The imagery and imagination that pervades Goya’s work in the first phase of his career was deeply influenced by the cultural and social events of his contemporary world. The eighteenth century was a period of great social change in Europe and Goya was one of the primary artists to depict this time. In this essay I will focus on the cultural influences in his tapestry designs and paintings of the 1790s, and the social influences in his etching series Los Caprichos.

The eighteenth century ushered in a new period of thinking in the Western world which was to bring marked political, social and economic changes. This period was called the Enlightenment and encouraged critical thinking independent of religious or superstitious doctrines. Artists entered into the dialogue about the state and direction of society and played an important role in encouraging public consideration of these momentous changes. Denis Diderot (1713- 1784), a writer and philosopher of the time, wrote, ‘Every work of sculpture or painting must be an expression of a great principle, a lesson for the spectator- otherwise it remains mute’ (Diderot, D. p.64). The personality of Francisco de Goya (1746- 1928) was vividly drawn to this new social framework.

Goya was born in the village of Fuentelodos in 1746. His father was a master gilder. After being apprenticed to the painter Jose Luzan, in 1763 he went to Madrid to study with Francisco Bayeu (1734-1795), a court painter. He then studied in Italy in 1770 and upon his return to Madrid was associated with the painter Anton Rafael Mengs (1728-1779), who ruled the Madrid painters under Carlos III. This king is credited with bringing the Enlightenment to Spain. However, in Spain there was still a belief in the divine rule of kings, in which constitutional government played no part.

Even though Madrid had a thin veneer of ‘ilustrados’, (enlightened aristocrats), the ‘pueblo’, (common people), was far more conservative. There was a huge difference between popular and elite culture in eighteenth century Spain. To the ‘majo’, (man of the people), the ‘ilustrado’ was a virtual foreigner. The street culture of Madrid was full of superstitions, bullfights, flamenco singers and popular theatre. At forty-six, Goya painted himself as a ‘majo’. He stands in his studio with a white light from the window behind, dressed in the red-braided jacket of a ‘torreador’. Goya’s imagination in the last half of the eighteenth century was planted firmly within this world. He loved popular culture, the life of tavern keepers, gambling houses and rag sellers.

Robert Hughes writes in his biography “Goya” that in 1775 Goya was set to work turning out paintings as cartoon designs for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara. Between 1775 and 1792 he completed more than sixty cartoons. They were full size and in full colour, some being as large as four metres wide. These cartoon designs would become tapestries to cover the walls of the Palace Real in Madrid. The subject matter of the designs was essentially narrative and popular in tone; light-hearted stories about contemporary events and manners in the modern Spain of Carlos III. These were Goya’s ‘saintes’ or scenes from popular culture cleaned up for royal consumption (Hughes, R. p.83).


Hughes goes on to tell us that in the culture of eighteenth century Spain it was a man’s world and so the collective hero of the tapestries is mainly the ‘majo’. This is shown clearly in his tapestry cartoon Picnic on the Banks of the Manzaneras (1776). Five young men are having a picnic. The food and wine make a small, beautifully rendered still-life within the painting. An orange seller is coquettishly inviting the ‘majos’ to buy. She is a figure straight from the popular theatre of the times, as are the young men. All belong together in this ‘proletarian paradise’ (Hughes, R. p.88).


In Fight at the New Inn (1777), coachmen and muleteers in the dress of the Spanish provinces are depicted outside an old country inn. Two of the men are dressed in ‘majo’ style and the others as peasants. They are gambling; the table on the right shows the innkeeper scooping up the winnings. They begin to fight until they are rolling on the ground with sticks. A dog barks as a man on horseback draws a pistol, while another tries to restrain the horse. It was a design that possibly would have reminded the Royals and their guests of the ‘picturesque’ poverty of places that they would never visit.

IN 1786, Goya began painting for the Osuna family. The Duke and Duchess of Osuna were socially ‘enlightened’ aristocrats who played a major role in Madrid public life through the Madrid Economic Society. The subject of the painting was a Rococo themed pastoral, complete with Fragonard-inspired foliage, into which he has introduced Spanish reality. Highwaymen Attacking a Coach (1787) probably represented what the Osuna family, being wealthy aristocrats, feared most. In the Spain of the 1780s brigandry was common, as outside Madrid little was policed. The outlaws were a violent and nasty lot which Goya would portray in later paintings and drawings.

Goya was a lover of the bullfight and earlier, in 1780, he had done a series of children’s games, one of which was a mock bullfight. Three boys play; one under a wickerwork bull and the other an infant picador on the shoulders of the third boy, his horse. While he was convalescing from a severe illness in 1793, he returned to the subject. On small metal supports, he painted a series of paintings following the story of the bullfight; the preparation, struggle and death of the fighting bull. One of the series, Death of a Picador 1793, is a painting of agony and death. This is expected as part of the entertainment, or as Robert Hughes describes, ‘this is Spain’ (Hughes, R., p.133).

In the eighteenth century the prison was an isolator. It was a place where people were locked up and left to fend for themselves with nobody to help or treat them. The madhouse was a place of degradation where the inmates were looked upon as a form of entertainment. Both places served as subject matter for Goya. In Yard with Lunatics (1794), Goya writes ‘…a courtyard of lunatics, in which two naked men fight with their warden, who beats them and others with sacks ( a scene I saw first hand in Zaragoza)’ (Hughes p.139). They are all there, each imprisoned by his neighbour, fighting, crouching, struggling, glaring, snarling and crawling like animals on the grey stone. This painting is also similar to Interior of Prison (1793), which shows a scene of abject despair in a contemporary prison of the eighteenth century.

In the 1790s Goya produced a series of etchings called Los Caprichos (1799). They parallel a sudden mood of reaction that swept the Spanish government. In 1790 French writings were banned and in 1791, most Spanish newspapers. Hughes writes in his review of a Goya exhibition that the etchings were meant as social satires on reaction, privilege, stupidity, exploitation and social vulgarity; a manifesto of liberal dislikes (Hughes, Nothing if not Critical p.62). In his advertisements for Los Caprichos, Goya says that ‘…from amongst the innumerable foibles to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance and self-interest have hallowed’ he has selected ‘those subjects which he feels to be more suitable for satire, and which, at the same time, stimulate the artist’s imagination’ (Hofmann, W. p.15).

Werner Hofmann in his discussion on Goya, writes that man lives falling:

This destiny with all its constraints, forms the metaphorical content of Goya’s art. When he depicts the social conventions and pressures which force human beings into precarious situations that descend into misery, crime or madness, his view is not confined to criticism of these realities. He draws and paints parables that illustrate the inescapable entanglement, the incurable sickness of the human condition. (Hofmann, p.40)

He goes on to describe that in Los Caprichos Goya was lashing out at contemporary Spanish uses and abuses, making fun of vices, ignorance and self-seeking. Goya transcends the specific contexts of the society scenes and turns them into paradigms and generalisations (Hofmann, p.104).

In the series of eighty etchings, Goya depicts a spoilt child stubbornly defying the authority of his nanny, the viciousness of child abuse, a chained couple that cannot escape each other; seduction and deception, exaggerated pain, and some comical misdeeds: someone getting robbed, beaten with a broom or being shaved or fleeced by a very experienced young lady. All over the chessboard of society, the pawns are watched, bullied and patronised. Pseudo partnerships are depicted in which trickery and hocus-pocus imposes brutal authority on the victim. Children are terrified by monsters and monks pray to a parrot on a pulpit. In All Will Fall the huge monster shrinks into a manipulated puppet. Here Goya is striking at the heart of those who abuse their political power, and at a weakling’s empty rhetoric. Hofmann interprets Los Caprichos as beginning by signalling the disintegration of the social body, parading the role play of the corrupted world, and ending with its descent into apocalyptic nightmare (Hofmann, p.118)


The culture of eighteenth century Spain and the social principles of the Enlightenment were integral to Goya and his creativity. In this twenty-five year period he moved from the depictions of contemporary Spanish life in his tapestries, to the fine paintings and portraits he created of his ilustrado patrons, to the satirical criticisms of Los Caprichos. Goya’s mission was to sharpen the minds of society by holding the mirror of his work to them.




  1. Tomory, P.A. ‘Neoclassicism and Romanticism c.1770-1850’, Foundations of European Art, Harry N. Abrams,New York, 1969, p.207-229
  2. Kleiner, F.S., Mamiya, J.C., Gardner’s Art Through the Ages 12th Edition,Wadsworth, 2005
  3. Diderot, D., ‘Denis Diderot (1713-1784) in Eitner, L. (ed.) Neoclassicism and Romanticism 1750-1850: Volume 1, Prentice Hall,London, 1970, p.54-64
  4. Hughes, R. ‘Goya’, Harvill Press, Random House,London, 2003
  5. Hughes, R. ‘Goya’ in Nothing if Not Critical, Harvill- Harper Collins,London, 1987, p.50-64
  6. Hofmann, W. ‘Goya- To every story there belongs another’, Thames andHudson,London, 2003
  7. Craske, M. Art in Europe1700-1830- A history of the Visual Arts in an Era of Unprecedented Urban Economic Growth, Oxford University Press, 1997
  8. Stokstad, M. Art History 2nd Ed., Emerita,University ofKanvas,Pearson-Prentice Hall,New Jersey, 2005
  9. DVD-Clark, K. ‘Civilisation- a personal view by Lord Clark’, The Smile of Reason, Directed by Michael Gill, BBC,London, 1969