Please forward this error screen to sharedip-10718024242. The utopia book 1 pdf question to be asked about Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias is whether it makes any sense to pursue, or even talk about, utopian projects.
At least rhetorically, conservatives have no time for utopian thinking, although, as Corey Robin has pointed out, the actual content of conservative politics bears little relation to this rhetoric. Both in its libertarian and reactionary authoritarian forms, actually existing conservatism has a strong utopian, or dystopian, streak. The left also has also a long tradition of suspicion of utopianism. This begins with Marx and his denunciation of utopian socialists like Saint-Simon and Fourier, which did not, however, prevent millions from investing utopian hopes the Soviet Union and its satellites or in the prospect of a global revolution against capitalism. In our own time it is the failure of those hopes that have done most to discredit utopian thinking. In the decades after 1945, social democrats offered a more modest version of utopia, but came closer to realizing it. The starting point was the combination of the welfare state, macroeconomic stabilization and the mixed economy.
The combined effect was to transform the lived experience of capitalist society, though not the capitalist order itself. The risks of falling into destitution as a result of unemployment, illness or old age, previously an ever-present reality for the great majority of workers, were eliminated almost completely by social security systems and, except in the US, publicly provided healthcare. At the same time, the social democratic era showed the possibility of sustained economic growth without the grotesque inequality of wealth that had characterized all previous societies, at least since the rise of agriculture. At the beginning of the social democratic era, racial and gender-based discrimination was pervasive, widely accepted and legally entrenched in capitalist society. But the egalitarian logic of social democracy made such discrimination untenable.
By the time the dominance of market liberalism, the situation had been reversed, at least in legal terms, with the advent of anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws. Beyond these achievements, the social democratic moment provided space for various kinds of utopian thinking. At a minimum, most social democrats assumed that the progressive gains of the decades after 1945 would continue until, at some point, a genuinely socialist society would emerge. Meanwhile, the radical movements of the late 1960s broke with the Stalinist Old Left and embraced many different varieties of utopianism: anarchist, feminist and environmentalist.
The acquiescence of capitalists in the social democratic moment needs some explanation. In part, undoubtedly, it was due to the need to provide an attractive alternative to Soviet communism during the Cold War. More importantly, however, the experience of the Great Depression had discredited free-market capitalism, and the demands of a war economy had given governments the power they needed to control the economy. The resurgence of a financialized form of global capitalism from the 1970s onwards came as a shock to the left. By the time the dominance of market liberalism was clearly re-established in the in the triumphalist decade that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, two main responses had emerged.
Third Way’, allegedly transcending the dispute between social democrats and market liberals. Now that promise of endless prosperity under market liberalism has been replaced by the reality of a Depression that shows no sign of coming to an end, the choices facing the left have changed radically. The assault on the social democratic state has intensified under the banner of austerity, making the defensive struggle all the more urgent. But the failures of capitalism mean that a defensive struggle alone is not enough.
In these circumstances, the time is right to think about Envisioning Real Utopias. He begins with a critique of capitalism on grounds such its adverse effects on human flourishing and the environment. The next section of the book discusses alternatives, first in theory and then in practice. Wright deals first with the Marxist tradition, sympathetically but negative. The core of Marxist politics is the claim that capitalism must inevitable collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, with the class rule of the bourgeoisie being overthrown by a proletarian revolution. Therefore, it’s necessary to talk about real utopias.