At it’s heart, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward is not a story about its main characters, but a personified dialogue between competition and cooperation. Julian West, born in the 19th century to an aristocratic family, was raised to believe that capitalism and competition were the pinnacle of economic ideals. Given this, he justifies the existence of rampant poverty, starvation, and income inequality brought about by this system by telling himself that he and others like him are intrinsically better than the workers on strike or the abject citizens subject to the harsh realities of life in a competitive capitalist society.
Doctor Leete, on the other hand, represents the new idealistic and utopian view of cooperation. In Bellamy’s imagined version of the 21st century, the common good is seen as the ideal rather than individual wealth or gain. We can see this divide clearly in the function of the new government; it controls the wealth, production, legislation, and justice for every single individual. The lack of competition is even seen in the organization of government. Equal personal wealth not only applies to each individual person, but ideally to nations as well. There is no competition between the states within the U.S. and the nation is even cooperating with other western industrialized nations who have also adopted this utopian style of government to help the less advanced and to one day create a world government where everyone is equal on the entire earth. Such is the ideal of Bellamy in his novel.