The Owen in this quote is Robert Owen, a rich and successful Welsh textile manufacturer in the early Nineteenth Century, who on a trip to the United States in 1824 visited a Shaker village near Albany, New York, looking to get ideas for a Utopian community he planned to build. That community was to be the beginning of what he called “the New Moral World” and it was going to be based on economic principles and practices that were decidedly socialist. Owen was a capitalist who dreamed of ending capitalism and with it crime, poverty, and hunger:
Then, as now, the principal economic case against communism was that it suppresses productivity and innovation by diminishing competition, thrift, and personal incentive. John Stuart Mill laid out the the counterargument as it was understood by Owen: “The objection [to communism] supposes that honest and efficient labor is only to be had from those who are themselves individually to reap the benefits of their own exertions. But how small a part of all the labor performed in England, from the lowest paid to the highest,is done by persons working for their own benefit” Like Mill, Owen saw that industrialism had made this problem of workers laboring almost entirely for someone else’s benefit even more acute. “A factory operative has less personal interest in his work than a member of a Communist association, since he is not, like him, working for a partnership of which he is himself a member....And though the ‘master’s eye,’ when the master is vigilant and intelligent, is of proverbial value, it must be remembered that in a Socialist farm or manufactory, each laborer would be under the eye, not of one master, but of the whole community.”
---from Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism by Chris Jennings.