Karel Capek’s play Rossum’s Universal Robots (RUR) is about the creation of robots, who eventually take over the world. From a sociological viewpoint, the play presents ideas about the effects of technological progress on society and man’s initial and final relationships with machines.

To begin with, progress is the solution that Capek’s society is looking for to make their lives easier. This progress comes in the form of robots. The word “robot,” first coined in RUR, comes from a Czech word meaning “worker.” Capek used this word because these robots are designed to do the work of this futuristic society. The work of the robots frees the people from their greatest hardship, hard labor. This is what one critic calls progress, an issue which was definitely popular right after WWI, which was when Capek wrote RUR. The technological progress in this play does appear to be beneficial to society at this early stage.

In this stage of progress, society and machines have a mutually beneficial relationship. The robots, who have been created to follow orders, do what they’re told, and society takes care of them. The robots, although created as flesh and blood, do not have souls or feelings like mankind does, so they do not know anything beyond intellectual knowledge. This helps to preserve the relationship between society and robots.

However, society’s relationship with robots soon changes. New robots are created with emotions, which makes them real human beings. This is a change which is not entirely for the better, as these new workers are inclined to rebel. They do not accept their role as society’s laborers and soon form their own society, starting a war against the rest of human society. They revolt as centuries of oppressed humans have, throwing their society into turmoil as they attack human ambition for the sake of simple humanity.

Society can’t deal with the other society they’ve created, which eventually breaks the bond of man’s relationship with robots. Man’s relationship with machines is another issue that dealt with Capek’s times. He created rebellious robots in his play to warn against the dangers of machines to society.

Society plays an important role in Capek’s play, which goes into many sociological issues. Capek deals with society throughout RUR, dealing with issues of his time and applying them to all of society.