Real Utopia Interview
ISBN: 9781904859789 Publisher: AK Press
Edition: Paper Back
Publisher: AK Press
The book is a collective effort to spell out vision and strategy for a feasible and desirable transformation of society's defining institutions. It explores how to get there along with concrete examples and lessons taken from past and present Left efforts in the long march to realize a new world.
It offers institutional and social vision for the economy, the polity, kinship relations, culture and community, and the environment. As well, there are chapters on how these transformations may affect daily life in art, architecture, technology, cities, and education. There is a whole section assessing international movements and revolutionary possibilities today---from Africa, Asia, North and South America, and
Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
The book was three years in the making and comes, not only from my own organizing and activism efforts, but from many contributors who were active in the New Left of the 60s and 70s, as well as folks who continued to stay active from then, through the 80s and 90s, and till now. Also, many of the books contributors are youth and young adults who are taking part in Left movements of this century. All together, the contributors range from veteran to novice organizers, activists, and intellectuals---from all over the world---who not only seek to take what is best from Classical and New Left movements, but who are also trying to avoid making the same mistakes and repeating past failures, while attempting to offer something new. Overall, I think the effort and content that went into making this book what it is, indicates an emerging and internationally shared vision of a world we want to win.
What are your hopes for Real Utopia? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
I hope that the book inspires others to build upon, refine, and further advocate and work to realize the ideas presented in its pages. On a practical level, I hope people pick up the book and after looking at it, believe that a new society---one that is classless, self-managing, diverse, and participatory; one that is emancipatory in all spheres of social life---in the economy, polity, kinship, and culture/community, and one that is ecologically sustainable too---is really possible and that the reader wants to join with others to work for it.
For me to deem the book a success would mean that the many ideas and contributors in the book are brought closer together, hopefully, more than before the book---that some how the book indicates a body of work and thought that becomes more congealed. My hope is that this will indicate an emerging and international effort to develop shared ideas, and shared vision and strategy. For this to be a truly international and participatory effort however, and for the book and ideas to be successful, many people all over the globe would have to read it, relate to one another, develop and refine the ideas, add to them, and begin to organize, agitate, and put into motion widely shared short and long-term goals that would carry us forward to win the world we want.
Only time will tell how many people may actually read the book, or what they do after reading the book---if they embrace or reject the ideas. Maybe the ideas are wrong, in which case we need to develop other---better---ideas, shared vision, strategic goals, etc. But I think the ideas are good and provocative. If there is any lack of people who read the book, and it is hard to have a widely read book, than I don't think that will bare on the quality of the book per se, but rather, short of millions and billions of dollars, there is no way to get the book into everyone's hands so that they can evaluate it for themselves.
Beyond the intrinsic quality of the ideas presented in the book, and although this is my first ever effort at such an undertaking, I don't think I did a bad job editing and selecting contributions. Perhaps it is my bias as editor, but I think that, even if I didn't edit the book, it would be a good book, and one I would want. Does this mean that every book I edit would be good? Certainly not. Does it mean that any book I may want to get simply to read would be good? That too would be ridiculous. In either case, as editor or reader, the book I decide I want to produce or consume could be good or bad.
So why should people read this book?
Because it has social value and is important. Because the world we currently live in distorts and contorts the vast majority of people in ugly ways along the lines of Race, Class, Gender, Power, Privilege, and people's ability to make decisions for their own lives. Because the social and material outcomes of today's institutions twist and turn people so much that they cannot relate to themselves or others intelligently, compassionately, or humanly. Because there is a social and material crisis in the world today that needs to be replaced for an emancipatory world. The ideas in the book propose a new and better world---classless, based on solidarity, participatory self-management and diversity, within and across the economic distribution of the material means of life; political adjudication in law and policy making; child rearing, care giving, gender and sexuality; and ecological sanity and sustainability. Whether the ideas and vision proposed are good or bad actually matters. That is why people should read this book.
See book description and table of contents with all contributors below...
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Advance Praise for Real Utopia
"This is a spectacular book of ideas -- brave, adventurous, intriguing ideas that reclaim perhaps the greatest human asset of all, political imagination, and help us realise once again that another world is indeed possible."
-- John Pilger, Journalist, Author, and Film Maker
"Chris Spannos has assembled a volume of hard-hitting, thought-provoking essays which address a critical need on the Left: the creation and elaboration of new theory. Whether in agreement or disagreement, readers will be both excited and challenged by the contents of this book. So pick it up right now!"
-- Bill Fletcher, Jr., Co-founder of the Black Radical Congress, Co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal, and Former President of TransAfrica Forum.
"[Real Utopia] captures what's best in past and most promising in future social practice; no one-size-fits-all miracles but practical suggestions and a huge and warranted display of confidence in peoples' skills and imagination. It's a compendium of healthily head-in-clouds [where the air is purer] but feet-on-ground utopias, and it reinforces our belief that the story of human emancipation is far from over."
-- Susan George, Board Chair of the Transnational Institute.
"This excellent book fills a huge gap in the thinking and writing about the creation of a better society. It not only outlines how such a society might be organized in theory, but also looks at concrete applications of these ideas around the world, in recent history, and in the
-- Gregory Wilpert, author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The Policies of the Chavez Presidency and editor of Venezuelanalysis.com
"Now that the idea that "there is no alternative" has been challenged by the idea that "another world is possible," it behooves us to debate what that "other world" could and should be. This book presents a coherent school of thought with provocative answers to that question -- answers that go beyond the traditional shibboleths of the left."
-- Jeremy Brecher, historian, author of Strike!
"There comes a time in every anarchist's life when she must decide whether her value system has application in the real world or is simply an ideology of lament. For those not content with the low-mileage of the latter, Real Utopia is an inspiring interim report -- collated from the four corners of the Earth -- on the evolution of the complex adaptive system we commonly refer to as 'anarchism'."
-- Chris Hannah, Propagandhi
What if we had direct control over our daily lives? What if society's defining institutions-those encompassing economics, politics, kinship, culture, community, and ecology-were based not on competition, individual ownership, and coercion, but on self-management, equity, solidarity, and diversity? Real Utopia identifies and obliterates the barriers to an egalitarian, bottom-up society, while convincingly outlining how to build it.
Instead of simply declaring "another world is possible," the writers in this collection engage with what that world would look like, how it would function, and how our commitment to just outcomes is related to the sort of institutions we maintain. Topics include: participatory economics, political vision, education, architecture, artists in a free society, environmentalism, work after capitalism, and poly-culturalism. The catchall phrase here is "participatory society"-one that is directly democratic and seeks institutional solutions to complex sociological and economic questions.
Contributors include: Michael Albert, Barbara Ehrenreich, Steve Shalom, Robin Hahnel, Marie Trigona, Justin Podur, Tom Wetzel, Cynthia Peters, Andrej Grubacic, and Mandisi Majavu, among others.
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Table of Contents and list of contributors:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS REAL UTOPIA?
Part 1: Defining Spheres of a Participatory Society
CHAPTER 1: PARECON TODAY
Chris Spannos interviews Michael Albert
CHAPTER 2: PARPOLITY: POLITICAL VISION FOR THE GOOD SOCIETY
CHAPTER 3: THE ART (AND SERENDIPITY) OF KINSHIP: IDEAS ABOUT
FAMILY, SEXUALITY, AND CAREGIVING IN A BETTER WORLD
CHAPTER 4: POLYCULTURALISM AND THE GOOD SOCIETY
CHAPTER 5: PARECON AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Chris Spannos interviews Robin Hahnel
Part 2: Revolutionizing Everyday Life
CHAPTER 6: ARTISTS AND PARECON
CHAPTER 7: FROM SELF-MANAGED MOVEMENTS
TO SELF-MANAGED CITY
CHAPTER 8: TECHNOLOGY OF THE NEW SOCIETY
CHAPTER 9: PARTICIPATORY PLANNING IN LIFE AFTER CAPITALISM
Barbara Ehrenreich interviews Michael Albert
CHAPTER 10: EDUCATION FOR A PARTICIPATORY SOCIETY
Chris Spannos interviews Noam Chomsky
Part 3: Assessing ParEcon Internationally
CHAPTER 12: LOCAL PLANNING: THE KERALA EXPERIMENT
Richard W. Franke
CHAPTER 13: PARTICIPATORY BALKANS
Exchanges between Andrej Grubacic and Michael Albert
CHAPTER 14: PARECON AND SAC: THE CENTRAL ORGANISATION
OF THE WORKERS OF
CHAPTER 15: PROJECT FOR A PARTICIPATORY SOCIETY
Mark Evans interviewed by UK Watch
CHAPTER 16: FASINPAT: ARGENTINE FACTORIES WITHOUT BOSSES
CHAPTER 17: VENEZUELA'S PATH
Part 4: Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards:
History's Lessons for the Future
CHAPTER 18: WORKERS' POWER AND THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
CHAPTER 19: THE SPANISH ANARCHISTS, THROUGH
A PARTICIPATORY LENS
CHAPTER 20: WINNOWING WHEAT FROM CHAFF: SOCIAL DEMOCRACY
AND LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Part 5: Theory & Practice:
CHAPTER 21: THE MAKING OF SOUTH END PRESS AND Z
CHAPTER 22: PARECON AND WORKERS' SELF-MANAGEMENT: REFLECTIONS ON
COFFEE HOUSE COLLECTIVE
CHAPTER 23: THE NEWSTANDARD: A PARECON
WORKPLACE IS POSSIBLE
FOUR YEARS OF ORGANIZING
CHAPTER 25: CAPES: THE
Matt McBride, Lloyd Philbrook, and Mitchell Szczepanczyk
CHAPTER 26: DOING VISION: THE
A PARTICIPATORY SOCIETY
Part 6: Moving Toward a Participatory Society
CHAPTER 27: PRAXIS MAKES PERFECT: THE NEW YOUTH ORGANIZING
Madeline Gardner and Joshua Kahn Russell
CHAPTER 28: ASSEMBLY ORGANIZING: AUTONOMOUS POLITICS
AND ITS PROBLEMS
Z Staff and Marcus Denton
CHAPTER 30: WHICH WAY FOR THE NEW LEFT? SOCIAL THEORY, VISION, AND STRATEGY
FOR A REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH AND STUDENT MOVEMENT
Pat Korte and Brian Kelly
CHAPTER 31: STUDENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS: DID YOU JUST SAY CLASS?
John J. Cronan Jr.
CHAPTER 32: FROM HERE TO PARECON
CHAPTER 33: BUILDING A PARECONISH MOVEMENT