Discussions of Envisioning Real Utopias, Berkeley, October ; Ankara, Erik Olin Wright, "Basic Income as a Socialist Project" (Basic Income Studies, issue. separate book, which eventually became Envisioning Real Utopias. governance. by Archon Fung and Erik Olin Wright (London: Verso, ); Redesigning Distribution: .. Available at: glucofvatibook.cf memoriapdf. Erik Olin Wright, the great Marxist sociologist and pioneering scholar of class in capitalism, died from acute myeloid leukemia on January 23, He was
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Rising inequality of income and power, along with the recent convulsions in the finance sector, have made the search for alternatives to unbridled capitalism. Jul 21, PDF | Wright, Erik Olin. Envisioning Real Utopias. London: Verso. ISBN: Paperback: CAD. Pages: Rezensionen/Book Reviews ERIK OLIN WRIGHT: Envisioning Real Utopias . London Verso, p. Many intellectuals and activists in the West linked.
The use of the term socialism to describe the structural aspects of the emancipatory alternative to capitalism also reflects this tension: For people sympathetic to the Marxist tradition, my attempt at rethinking socialism in terms of social power and radical democracy connects with longstanding themes; to non-Marxists the term socialism may seem antiquated, and in spite of my terminological protestations, have too close a link to centralized statism.
This tension of writing both for people who identify in some way with Marxism and those indifferent or hostile to Marxism is further exacerbated by my desire for the book to be relevant to people in different countries where Marxism and Socialism carry very different connotations. In the United States the word socialism is completely outside of mainstream political life, whereas in many European countries the word is an umbrella label for progressive politics rooted in democratic egalitarian values.
I do not know if I have successfully navigated these problems of audience. My strategy is to try to write clearly, define all of the key concepts I use, and carefully present the steps in my arguments in a logical way that hopefully will make the text accessible to people both familiar and less familiar with this kind of discussion.
It was generally called socialism.
While the Right condemned socialism as violating individual rights to private property and unleashing monstrous forms of state oppression and the Left saw socialism as opening up new vistas of social equality, genuine freedom and the development of human potentials, both believed that a fundamental alternative to capitalism was possible.
Most people in the world today, especially in the economically developed regions of the world, no longer believe in this possibility. Capitalism seems to most people part of the natural order of things, and pessimism has replaced the optimism of the will that Gramsci once said was essential if the world was to be transformed.
This book hopes to contribute to rebuilding a sense of possibility for emancipatory social change by investigating the feasibility of radically different kinds of institutions and social relations that could potentially advance the democratic egalitarian goals historically associated with the idea of socialism. In part this investigation will be empirical, examining cases of institutional innovations that embody in one way or another emancipatory alternatives to the dominant forms of social organization.
In part it will be more speculative, exploring theoretical proposals that have not yet been implemented but nevertheless are attentive to realistic problems of institutional design and social feasibility.
The idea is to provide empirical and theoretical grounding for radical democratic egalitarian visions of an alternative social world. Four examples, which we will discuss in detail in later chapters, will give a sense of what this is all about: 1.
Participatory City Budgeting In most cities in the world that are run by some form of elected government, city budgets are put together by the technical staff of the citys chief executive usually a mayor. If the city also has an elected city council, then this bureaucratically constructed budget is probably submitted to the council for modification and ratification. The basic shape of the budget is determined by the political agenda of the mayor and other dominant political forces working with economists, engineers, city planners and other technocrats.
That is the existing world. Now, imagine the following alternative possible world: Instead of the city budget being formulated from the top down, suppose that a city was divided up into a number of neighborhoods, and each neighborhood had a participatory budget assembly. Suppose also that there were a number of city-wide budget assemblies on various themes of 1 Parts of this chapter appeared in the Preface to the first volume in the Real Utopias Project, Associations and Democracy, by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers Verso: Chapter 1.
The mandate for the participatory budget assemblies is to formulate concrete budget proposals, particularly for infrastructure projects of one sort or another, and submit them to a city-wide budget council.
Any resident of the city can participate in the assemblies and vote on the proposals. They function rather like New England town meetings, except that they meet regularly over several months so that there is ample opportunity for proposals to be formulated and modified before being subjected to ratification.
After ratifying these neighborhood and thematic budgets, the assemblies choose delegates to participate in the city-wide budget council for a few months until a coherent, consolidated city budget is adopted.
This model is the reality in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Before it was instituted in few people would have thought that a participatory budget could work in a relatively poor city of more than one and a half million people in a country with weak democratic traditions, plagued by corruption and political patronage. It constitutes a form of direct, participatory democracy fundamentally at odds with the conventional way that social resources get allocated for alternative purposes in cities.
We will discuss this case in some detail in chapter 6. Wikipedia Wikipedia is a large, free-wheeling internet encyclopedia. By mid it contained over 2. It is free to anyone on the planet who has access to the internet, which means that since the internet is now available in many libraries even in very poor countries, this vast store of information is available without charge to anyone who needs it.
In , roughly 65 million people accessed Wikipedia monthly. The entries were composed by several hundred thousand unpaid volunteer editors. Any entry can be modified by an editor and those modifications modified in turn.
While, as we will see in chapter 7, a variety of rules have evolved to deal with conflicts over content, Wikipedia has developed with an absolute minimum of monitoring and social control. And to the surprise of most people, it is generally of fairly high quality. In a study reported in the journal Nature, in a selection of science topics the error rates in Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica were fairly similar.
It is based on the principle to each according to need, from each according to ability. No one gets paid for editing, no one gets charged for access. It is egalitarian and produced on the basis of horizontal reciprocities rather than hierarchical control. In the year , before Wikipedia was launched, no one including its founders -- would have thought what has come to be was possible. The Mondragon Worker-Owned cooperatives The prevailing wisdom among economists is that in a market economy, employee-owned and managed firms are only viable under special conditions.
They need to be small and the labor force within the firm needs to be fairly homogeneous. They may be able to fill niches in a capitalist economy, but they will not be able to produce sophisticated products with capital intensive technologies involving complex divisions of labor.
High levels of complexity require hierarchical power relations and capitalist property relations. Mondragon is a conglomerate of worker-owned cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain.
It was founded in the s during the Franco dictatorship and is now 7th largest business group in Spain and the largest in the Basque region with more than 40, worker-owner members. While, as we will see in chapter 7, it faces considerable challenges in the globalized market today, nevertheless the top management continues to be elected by the workers and major corporate decisions are made by a board of directors representing the members or by a general assembly of the members.
Unconditional Basic Income The idea of an unconditional basic income UBI is quite simple: Every legal resident in a country receives a monthly living stipend sufficient to live above the poverty line. Lets call this the no frills culturally respectable standard of living. The grant is unconditional on the performance of any labor or other form of contribution, and it is universal everyone receives the grant, rich and poor alike. Grants go to individuals, not families.
Parents are the custodians of underage childrens grants which may be at a lower rate than the grants for adults. Universalistic programs, like public education and health care, that provide services to people rather than cash would continue alongside universal basic income, but with universal basic income in place, most other redistributive transfers would be eliminated general welfare, family allowances, unemployment insurance, tax-based old age pensions since the basic income grant is sufficient to provide everyone a decent subsistence.
This means that in welfare systems that already provide generous antipoverty income support through a patchwork of specialized programs, the net increase in costs represented by universal unconditional basic income would not be large.
Special needs subsidies of various sorts would continue for example, for people with disabilities but they would also be smaller than under current arrangements since the basic cost of living would be covered by the UBI.
Minimum wage rules would be relaxed or eliminated since there would be little need to legally prohibit below-subsistence wages if all earnings, in effect, generated discretionary income.
While everyone receives the grant as an unconditional right, most people at even given point in time would probably be net contributors since their taxes will rise by more than the basic income. Over time, however, most people will spend part of their lives as net beneficiaries and part of their lives as net contributors. Unconditional basic income is a fundamental redesign of the system of income distribution. As we will see in detail in chapter 7, it has potentially profound ramifications for a democratic egalitarian transformation of capitalism: poverty is eliminated; the labor contract becomes more nearly voluntary since everyone has the option of exit; the power relations between workers and capitalist become less unequal, since workers, in effect, have an unconditional strike fund; the possibility for people forming cooperative associations to produce goods and services to serve human needs outside of the market increases since such activity no longer needs to provide the basic standard of living of participants.
No country has adopted an unconditional basic income, although the most generous welfare states have incomplete, fragmented versions and there has been one experimental pilot program for a basic income in a very poor country, Namibia. It thus could turn out that a generous basic income, if implemented, would not be viable it might self-destruct because of all sorts of perverse effects.
But, as I will argue later, there are also good reasons to believe that it would work and that it could constitute one of the cornerstones of another possible world. These are all examples of what I will call real utopias. This may seem like a contradiction in terms. Utopias are fantasies, morally inspired designs for a humane world of peace and harmony unconstrained by realistic considerations of human psychology and social feasibility. Realists eschew such fantasies.
What we need are hardnosed proposals for pragmatically improving our institutions. Instead of indulging in utopian dreams we must accommodate to practical realities. The idea of Real Utopias embraces this tension between dreams and practice. It is grounded in the belief that what is pragmatically possible is not fixed independently of our imaginations, but is itself shaped by our visions. Self-fulfilling prophecies are powerful forces in history, and while it may be naively optimistic to say where there is a will there is a way, it is certainly true that without will many ways become impossible.
Nurturing clear-sighted understandings of what it would take to create social institutions free of oppression is part of creating a political will for radical social changes to reduce oppression. A vital belief in a utopian ideal may be necessary to motivate people to leave on the journey from the status quo in the first place, even though the likely actual destination may fall short of the utopian ideal.
Yet, vague utopian fantasies may lead us astray, encouraging us to embark on trips that have no real destinations at all, or worse still, which lead us toward some unforeseen abyss. Along with where there is a will there is a way, the human struggle for emancipation confronts the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What we need, then, is real utopias: utopian ideals that are grounded in the real potentials of humanity, utopian destinations that have accessible waystations, utopian designs of institutions that can inform our practical tasks of navigating a world of imperfect conditions for social change.
The idea that social institutions can be rationally transformed in ways that enhance Claudia Haarmann, Dirk Haarmann, et. On the one hand, radicals of diverse stripes have argued that social arrangements inherited from the past are not immutable facts of nature, but transformable human creations. Social institutions can be designed in ways that eliminate forms of oppression that thwart human aspirations for fulfilling and meaningful lives.
The central task of emancipatory politics is to create such institutions. On the other hand, conservatives have generally argued that grand designs for social reconstruction are nearly always disasters. While contemporary social institutions may be far from perfect, they are generally serviceable. At least, it is argued, they provide the minimal conditions for social order and stable interactions.
These institutions have evolved through a process of slow, incremental modification as people adapt social rules and practices to changing circumstances. The process is driven by trial and error much more than by conscious design, and by and large those institutions which have endured have done so because they have enduring virtues.
This does not preclude institutional change, even deliberate institutional change, but it means that such change should be very cautious and incremental and should not envision wholesale transformations of existing arrangements. At the heart of these alternative perspectives is a disagreement about the relationship between the intended and unintended consequences of deliberate efforts at social change.
The conservative critique of radical projects is not mainly that the emancipatory goals of radicals are morally indefensible although some conservatives criticize the underlying values of such projects as well but that the uncontrollable, and usually negative, unintended consequences of these efforts at massive social change inevitably swamp the intended consequences.
Radicals and revolutionaries suffer from what Frederick Hayek termed the fatal conceit the mistaken belief that through rational calculation and political will, society can be designed in ways that will significantly improve the human condition. Of course, one can point out that many reforms favored by conservatives also have massive, destructive unintended consequences.
The havoc created in many poor countries by World Bank structural adjustment programs would be an example. And furthermore, under certain circumstances conservatives themselves argue for radical, society-wide projects of institutional design, as in the catastrophic shock therapy strategy for transforming the command economy of the Soviet Union into free-market capitalism in the s. Nevertheless, there is a certain apparent plausibility to the general claim by conservatives that the bigger the scale and scope of conscious projects of social change, the less likely it is that we will be able to predict ahead of time all of the ramifications of those changes.
Radicals on the left have generally rejected this vision of human possibility. Particularly in the Marxist tradition, radical intellectuals have insisted that wholesale redesign of social institutions is within the grasp of human beings. This does not mean, as Marx emphasized, that detailed institutional blueprints can be devised in advance of the 5 Frederick A. What can be worked out are the core organizing principles of alternatives to existing institutions, the principles that would guide the pragmatic trial-and-error task of institution-building.
Of course, there will be unintended consequences of various sorts, but these can be dealt with as they arrive after the revolution. The crucial point is that unintended consequences need not pose a fatal threat to the emancipatory projects themselves. Regardless of which of these stances seems most plausible, the belief in the possibility of radical alternatives to existing institutions has played an important role in contemporary political life. It is likely that the political space for social democratic reforms was, at least in part, expanded because more radical ruptures with capitalism were seen as possible, and that possibility in turn depended crucially on many people believing that radical ruptures were workable.
The belief in the viability of revolutionary socialism, especially when backed by the grand historical experiments in the USSR and elsewhere, enhanced the achievability of reformist social democracy as a form of class compromise. The political conditions for progressive tinkering with social arrangements, therefore, may depend in significant ways on the presence of more radical visions of possible transformations. This does not mean, of course, that false beliefs about what is possible are to be supported simply because they are thought to have desirable consequences, but it does suggest plausible visions of radical alternatives, with firm theoretical foundations, are an important condition for emancipatory social change.
We now live in a world in which these radical visions are often mocked rather than taken seriously. Along with the post-modernist rejection of grand narratives, there is an ideological rejection of grand designs, even by many people still on the left of the political spectrum.
This need not mean an abandonment of deeply egalitarian emancipatory values, but it does reflect a cynicism about the human capacity to realize those values on a substantial scale. This cynicism, in turn, weakens progressive political forces in general.
This book is an effort to counter this cynicism by elaborating a general framework for systematically exploring alternatives that embody the idea of real utopia. We will begin in chapter 2 by embedding the specific problem of envisioning real utopias within a broader framework of emancipatory social science. This framework is built around three tasks: diagnosis and critique; formulating alternatives; and elaborating strategies of transformation.
These three tasks define the agendas of the three main parts of the book. Part I of the book Chapter 3 presents the basic diagnosis and critique of capitalism that animates the search for real utopian alternatives. Part II then discusses the problem of alternatives. Chapter 4 reviews the traditional Marxist approach to thinking about alternatives and shows why this approach is unsatisfactory. Chapter 5 elaborates an alternative strategy of analysis, anchored in the idea that socialism, as an alternative to capitalism, should be understood as a process of increasing social empowerment over state and economy.
Chapters 6 and 7 explore a range of concrete proposals for institutional design in terms of this concept of social empowerment, the first of these chapters focusing on the problem of social empowerment and the state, and the second on the problem of social empowerment and the economy.
Part III of the book turns to the problem of transformation how to understand the process by which these real utopian alternatives could be brought about. Chapter 8 lays Chapter 1. Chapters 9 through 11 then examine three different broad strategies of emancipatory transformation ruptural transformation chapter 9 , interstitial transformation chapter 10 , and symbiotic transformation chapter The book concludes in Chapter 12 which distills the core arguments of the book into seven key lessons.
Chapter 2 The Tasks of Emancipatory Social Science Final draft, July Envisioning real utopias is a central component of a broader intellectual enterprise that can be called emancipatory social science. Emancipatory social science seeks to generate scientific knowledge relevant to the collective project of challenging various forms of human oppression. To call this a form of social science, rather than simply social criticism or social philosophy, recognizes the importance for this task of systematic scientific knowledge about how the world works.
The word emancipatory identifies a central moral purpose in the production of knowledge the elimination of oppression and the creation of the conditions for human flourishing.
To fulfill this mission, any emancipatory social science faces three basic tasks: elaborating a systematic diagnosis and critique of the world as it exists; envisioning viable alternatives; and understanding the obstacles, possibilities, and dilemmas of transformation.
In different times and places one or another of these may be more pressing than others, but all are necessary for a comprehensive emancipatory theory. It is not enough to show that people suffer in the world in which we live or that there are enormous inequalities in the extent to which people live flourishing lives. A scientific emancipatory theory must show that the explanation for this suffering and inequality lies in specific properties of institutions and social structures.
The first task of emancipatory social science, therefore, is the diagnosis and critique of the causal processes that generate these harms. Diagnosis and critique is the aspect of emancipatory social science that has often generated the most systematic and developed empirical research.
Consider Feminism, for example. A great deal of feminist writing centers on the diagnosis of existing social relations, practices and institutions in terms of the ways in which they generate various forms of oppression of women.
Studies of labor markets have emphasized such things as sex-segregation of jobs, job evaluation systems which denigrate job attributes associated with culturally defined feminine traits, promotion discrimination, institutional arrangements which place mothers at a disadvantage in employment, and so on.
Feminist studies of culture demonstrate the ways in which a wide range of cultural practices in the media, education, literature, and other institutions have traditionally reinforced gender identities and stereotypes in ways that oppress women. Feminist studies of the 1 In a personal communication Steven Lukes noted that the word emancipation was originally connected to the struggle against slavery: the emancipation of slaves meant their freedom from bondage.
More generally, the idea of emancipation was connected to liberal notions of freedom and achieving full liberal rights rather than socialist ideals of equality and social justice. In the twentieth century the left appropriated the term to refer to a broader vision of eliminating all forms of oppression, not just those involving coercive forms of denial of individual liberties. I am using the term in this broader sense.
Chapter 2. The Tasks of Emancipatory Social Science state have examined the way in which state structures and policies have systematically reinforced the subordination of women and various forms of gender inequality. All of this research is meant to show that gender inequality and domination are not simply the result of natural biological difference between men and women, but rather are generated by social structures, institutions, and practices.
A similar set of observations could be made about empirical research inspired by the Marxist tradition of emancipatory theory, by theories of racial oppression, and by radical environmentalism. In each of these traditions much of the research that is done consists in documenting the harms generated by existing social structures and institutions, and attempting to identify the causal processes which generate those harms.
Diagnosis and critique is closely connected to questions of social justice and normative theory. To describe a social arrangement as generating harms is to infuse the analysis with a moral judgment.
Underlying the analysis in this book is what could be called a radical democratic egalitarian understanding of justice. It rests on two broad normative claims, one concerning the conditions for social justice and the other for political justice: 1. Social justice: In a socially just society, all people would have broadly equal access to the necessary material and social means to live flourishing lives. Political justice: In a politically just society, all people would have broadly equal access to the necessary means to participate meaningfully in decisions about things which affect their lives.
This includes both the freedom of individuals to make choices that affect their own lives as separate persons, and their capacity to participate in collective decisions which affect their lives as members of a broader community.
Both of these claims are fraught with philosophical difficulty and controversy, and I will not attempt here to provide a fully elaborated defense. Nevertheless, it will be helpful to clarify the meaning and implications of these two principles and explain the grounds on which I believe they provide a foundation for the diagnosis and critique of social institutions.
Social Justice The conception of social justice which animates the critique of capitalism and the search for alternatives in this book revolves around three ideas: human flourishing; necessary material and social means; broadly equal access. It is, of course, possible for someone to agree that contemporary capitalism generates harms and human suffering and still also argue that this is not an injustice. One might believe, as many libertarians do, that people have the right to do what they want with their property even if alternative uses of their property would reduce human suffering.
A consistent libertarian could accept the diagnosis that capitalism generates large deficits in human flourishing, and yet argue that it would be a violation of individual liberty and thus unjust to force people to use their property in ways other than of their choosing. Nevertheless, most people believe that when institutions generate systematic and pervasive harms in the lives of people, that such institutions are likely also to be unjust.
This of course still does not mean that people who acknowledge the injustice of capitalism will necessarily want to change it in any fundamental way, since there are other things besides justice which people care about. The Tasks of Emancipatory Social Science Human flourishing is a broad, multidimensional umbrella concept, covering a variety of aspects of human well being.
The restrictive meaning of human flourishing concerns the absence of deficits that undermine ordinary human functioning. This includes things like hunger and other material deprivations, ill-health, social isolation, and the psychological harms of social stigma. This is a heterogeneous list some elements refer to bodily impairments, others to social and cultural impairments.
But they all, through different mechanisms, undermine basic human functioning. A just society is one in which all people have unconditional access to the necessary means to flourish in this restrictive sense of satisfaction of needs for basic human functioning.
The fourth has become a much more pressing issue because of the looming environmental crisis, especially around global warming. Four ideas are critical in this formulation. First, the ultimate good affirmed in the principle is human flourishing. This refers to the various ways in which people are able to develop their talents and capacities, to realize their potentials as human beings.
The concept does not privilege one kind of capacity over another. These capacities are intellectual, physical, artistic, spiritual, social, and moral. A flourishing human life is one in which these talents and capacities develop. Second, the egalitarian ideal in the principle is captured by the idea of equal access, not just equal opportunity. Equal opportunity is also, of course, desirable, but as a moral ideal it is consistent with a very punitive view towards people who fail to take advantage of opportunities.
Equal access implies a more compassionate view of the human condition than simple equal opportunity, but also a more demanding principle of justice: people, in an on-going way throughout their lives, should have access to the conditions to live a flourishing life. Third, the egalitarian principle of social justice refers to both material and social conditions necessary to flourish, not just material conditions.
This means that issues of social stigma and social exclusion are issues of social justice along with the more conventional concerns with access to material resources. Finally, the principle of equality as stated above refers to all persons.
This means that in a fully just world all persons regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, citizenship status, or geographical location would have broadly equal access to the material and social conditions necessary to live a flourishing life. Democracy In a fully democratic society, all people would have broadly equal access to the necessary means to participate meaningfully in decisions about things which affect their lives.
The value that underlies democracy is the value of self-determination, of people being in control of their lives rather than having their lives controlled by others. This includes both the freedom of individuals to make choices that affect their own lives as separate persons, and their capacity to participate in collective decisions which affect their lives as members of a broader community.
When the democratic value is defined this way, then the idea of individual freedom and the idea democracy basically share the same core value. Community Community embodies the core idea of solidarity and reciprocity in which our interactions with others are guided by our desires to support and help each other rather than simply to advance our own self-interest.
The ideal of community is not an indictment of self-interest as such, but rather an affirmation of the importance of self-interest being bounded by reciprocity and solidarity. Community understood in this way is both instrumentally important for the realization of other values — equality and democracy are more realizable and stable under conditions of strong and widespread solidarity — and intrinsically valuable for human flourishing.
As a value community does not refer only to the interpersonally dense reciprocities of local settings, but to any social arena of interaction and interdependency. Just as egalitarian notions of justice extend, in principle, globally, so does the value of community.
The value of community has a particularly complex relationship to ideals of social emancipation and human flourishing, because in many social contexts, reciprocity and solidarity also act as exclusionary mechanisms that generate sharp boundaries between insiders and outsiders.
Community that is anchored in exclusionary identities thus simultaneously expresses the value of reciprocity and violates the value of equality as defined above. Sustainability Future generations should have access to the social and material conditions to live flourishing lives at least at the same level as the present generation.
This way of understanding environmental sustainability is closely connected to the equality principle of social justice. Equality is a social justice principle among the people in the world today. Sustainability is a justice principle for people in the future. Books and Ideas: How does the current situation appear in the light of these moral foundations?
Erik Olin Wright: Let me first answer this question for capitalism in general, and then turn to the present moment. Capitalism in general imposes severe limitations on the fullest possible realization of all of these values.
This does not imply that capitalism is completely antithetical to these values, but rather that it limits their fullest realization: Equality Capitalism has promoted a massive growth in human productivity and the material conditions for human flourishing, but it also inherently generates high levels of inequality in access to these conditions and thus perpetuates eliminable deficits in human flourishing.
The issue is not simply unequal opportunity for children, but unequal access to the conditions to live a flourishing life throughout the life course as a result of insufficient income to live at a culturally-defined dignified level and the unequal vulnerability to life-risks connected to capitalist labor markets. These material injustices of capitalism are intrinsic to the ordinary functioning of capitalist economies; they are not simply the result of crises or special economic conditions.
This does not imply that the only solution is necessarily to get rid of capitalism. It might be possible to significantly mitigate this form of injustice through mechanisms that would at least partially counteract the unjust inequalities of capitalism and still leave capitalism the dominant structure of the economy The experiences of a few northern European capitalist countries indicate that significant mitigation of capitalism-generated inequality is possible.
Still, even in these cases it is important to recognize that this mitigation is the result of developing non-capitalist institutions capable of counteracting the effects of capitalist processes, and as a result their economic systems have become less purely capitalist. Democracy Capitalism generates severe deficits in realizing democratic values for three reasons: by excluding crucial decisions from public deliberation, by allowing private wealth to affect access to political power, and by allowing workplace dictatorships.
The first of these is intrinsic to the very concept of private property in the means of production. Capitalism also contradicts the full realization of democracy by allowing private wealth to affect access to political power.
This is true everywhere; no capitalist democracy is able to insulate political decision-making from the exercise of power connected to capitalist wealth. And finally, capitalism allows work-place dictatorships, depriving employees of rights of participation in decisions which affect their lives in important ways.
Community Capitalist competition is inherently corrosive of the value of community by placing the singled-minded pursuit of self-interest at the center of economic life. Cohen has put, capitalism fosters interactions between people based on greed and fear — greed for self-advancement; fear of the competition from others. Of course reciprocity and solidarity continue to exist, since capitalism is not the only determinant of social interactions within capitalist societies, but the core mechanisms of capitalism reinforce values inimical to community.
Sustainability Capitalism inherently threatens the quality of the environment for future generations because of the ways it fosters consumerism and imperatives for endless growth in material production. The world is finite; endless growth in material consumption is simply not compatible with the long-term sustainability of the environment.
This does not mean that prosperity as such is incompatible with the environment, but simply that prosperity dependent on a dynamic of endless growth is incompatible with environmental sustainability. These are generic ways in which capitalism imposes limits on the realization of the four core moral principles.
In the current situation, the dynamics of capitalism have exacerbated all of these problems. As already mentioned, globalization and financialization and their interaction have dramatically increased inequality in access to the material conditions of human flourishing in many parts of the world. Democracy has been eroded by increasing concentrations of wealth.
In the United States democracy has been further weakened by changes in the rules of the game which enable wealth to even more directly influence politics and by the relentless assault on the labor movement.
And finally, the value of sustainability is farther than ever from realization because of the complete unwillingness of most capitalist countries, especially the United States, to take it seriously and come to terms with the problem of constraining capitalist consumerism and rethinking the patterns of economic growth as a necessary condition for countering global warming.
Radical Emancipatory Alternatives Books and Ideas: What alternatives do you have in mind when you envision real utopias? Erik Olin Wright: The idea of real utopias mainly focuses on institutions that in one way or another prefigure more radical emancipatory alternatives to existing institutions and social structures. Sometimes these are created in contexts of political struggles, other times they emerge quietly, without sharp confrontations. Sometimes they are in deep tension with dominant institutions; other times they occupy niches in the socioeconomic ecosystem, in ways which make them nonthreatening.
Instead of city budgets being created by technical experts working with politicians, the budget is created by ordinary citizens meeting in popular assemblies and voting on budget alternatives.
In the model of PB initiated in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in the early s by the Brazilian Workers Party, neighborhood assemblies throughout the city are empowered to debate budgetary priorities, to propose specific kinds of budgetary projects and then to choose delegates to a citywide budget council who bring all of the proposals from the different neighborhood assemblies together and reconcile them into a coherent city budget.
This basic model has spread to many other cities in Latin America and elsewhere, most recently in a novel form to some city council districts in Chicago and New York. The result is a budget much more closely reflecting the democratic ideal of equal access of citizens to participate meaningfully in the exercise of power. It is made available without charge to anyone in the world who has access to the internet.
The quality is in places uneven, but overall quite high. Wikipedia is the best known example of a more general model of non-hierarchical cooperative economic activity: peer-to-peer distributed production with open source property rights. You go into a library and check out the books you need.
You go to a bookstore, go to the shelf, find the book you need, open it up, see that it is too expensive and put it back. Public libraries are fundamentally anti-capitalist institutions that allocate resources on the basis of need and ration them by waiting lists. Some libraries lend much more than books: music, videos, art work, even tools.
They often provide public space for meetings. They increase equality in access to the material conditions to live a flourishing life. Worker-owned cooperatives Perhaps the oldest vision for an emancipatory alternative to capitalism is the worker-owned firm.
Capitalism began by dispossessing workers of their means of production and then employing them as wage-laborers in capitalist firms. The most straightforward undoing of that dispossession is its reversal through worker-owned firms.
In most times and places, however, worker cooperatives are quite marginal within market economies, occupying small niches rather than the core of the economic system. One striking exception is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain, a conglomerate of over separate worker cooperatives that produce a wide range of goods and services including high-end refrigerators, auto parts, bicycles, industrial robots and much more.
The cooperatives in the conglomerate have weathered the severe Spanish economic crisis much better than conventional capitalist firms. Examples in Quebec include community-based daycare centers, elder-care services, job-training-centers, social housing, and much more.
The chantier enhances democratic-egalitarian principles by fostering economic activity organized around needs and developing new forms of democratic representation and coordination for the social economy. Urban agriculture with community land trusts In a number of cities in the United States there are serious initiatives for developing urban agriculture. A critical issue in such efforts is the nature of the property rights involved in the urban agriculture and how such development can be sustained in a way that is accountable to communities.
The proposal for community land-trusts for urban agriculture is one approach to this problem. Randomocracy Democratic governance is generally thought as either involving elected representatives or direct participatory assemblies. A third form involves representation without elections through randomly selected assemblies. The jury is the classic example.
In ancient Athens, legislation was done by an assembly of citizens chosen by lot. One could also imagine a two-chamber legislative system in which one house was elected and the other was a citizens assembly of randomly chosen representatives.
Such institutions allow for the capacities and ideas of ordinary citizens to be deployed in democratic governance even at geographical scales where direct democracy would not be feasible. Unconditional basic income Unconditional basic income UBI is a proposal to give every legal resident of a territory an income sufficient to live above the poverty line without any work requirement or other conditions.
Nearly all existing public programs of income support would be eliminated. UBI opens up a wide array of new possibilities for people. It guarantees that any young person can do an unpaid internship, not just those who have affluent parents who are prepared to subsidize them. Worker co-operatives would become much more viable since the basic needs of the worker-owners did not depend on the income generated by the enterprise.
This also means worker cooperatives would be better credit risks to banks, making it easier for cooperatives to get loans.
UBI, if it could be instituted at a relatively generous level, would move us decisively towards the egalitarian principle of giving everyone equal access to the conditions to live a flourishing life.