Dear Fellow ZNet Sustainer,
Here is where I abuse my position as a ZNet Commentator to write an open letter to you as my commentary. Well, I guess it isn’t exactly abusing it – any commentator can do it, not just me. And I will send two commentaries today, so this replaces nothing.
At any rate, I want to make a case to you for your ordering a copy of Realizing Hope, a book I have written that is now available through Amazon.com, through Zed Press (the publisher), and through diverse independent dealers.
Realizing Hope is about vision for a better future, a point that is elaborated on the book page linked from the top page of ZNet and in the ZNet Update Book Interview sent around about it. Have you checked the book page? Have you ordered the book? The odds are the answer is no – surely most of you have not done either yet, and certainly not the latter.
So – I am down on my knees begging you please Give [Realizing] Hope A Chance
You can’t read Realizing Hope if you don’t order it. And you can’t assess it and either reject what it offers, or adapt and make your own what it offers, without reading it. “Big deal,” you may say. “Why is there any priority to determine whether I wish to adapt and make my own the contents of Realizing Hope?”
Well, I am saying there is that priority. And as long as you haven’t done that, you are implicitly or explicitly claiming that no, there is no great reason to get the book and assess it.
So, who is right? Put differently, why isn’t this book like any other book. Why don’t I back off when you say “maybe I will get it, maybe I won’t, but surely there is no compelling argument that I ought to do anything particular about it.”
Is it because the author is special that I don’t back off? No, that’s idiotic. It can’t be that. I am the author – and there is nothing special about me – except perhaps incredibly excessive chutzpah.
Is it because the book is special? Not really. It’s a book: paper and binding. It is not the book per se that makes me argue that you need to get it. And I can’t convince you based on its contents, before you read and assess the contents, that the contents warrant your attention. That would mean taking my word on faith.
Oh, alright, I could make a case that the actual words in the book warrant it by pointing to other people’s assessments. After all, Chomsky says: “Realizing Hope casts the net widely, extending to just about every major domain of human concern and investigating with care and insight how, in these domains, parecon-like principles could lead to a far more desirable society than anything that exists. It is another very valuable contribution to the quest for a world of much greater freedom and justice.” And shouldn’t we all be interested in that quest?
Jeremy Brecher says the book is “â€¦an essential starting point for thinking about what that world might be and how we might get there.” And don’t we all need to think about that?
Mandisi Majavu says the book offers “profound insights into how economics affects personalities and social relations and vice versa. The book opens many doors for social vision and strategy.” And aren’t those just exactly the doors we need to go through?
Andrej Grubacic notes that Realizing Hope “combines close empirical insights with a magisterial conceptual grasp. We will be arguing about this work for years.” And don’t we need to argue, and perhaps conclude, too?
Pervez Hoodbhoy says we can all “benefit from this profoundly important work. It does not shy away from the awesome complexity of human issues, nor does it reek of the stultifying dogmatism of so many left-wing tracts.” No tracts for usâ€¦and so why not this profoundly important work for us?
Vittorio Agnoletto says Realizing Hope “points the way towards a society based on participation and justice. Utopia is somewhere that does not exist yet. This book can really help turn a dream into reality.” And is not turning dreams into reality our project?
Stephen Shalom says “Anyone disgusted with existing society — which is to say, just about everyone — who wants to know if there are any alternatives, will find Realizing Hope informative, provocative, creative, engaging, and, yes, full of hope.” And if everyone will find it thus, then the question arises, doesn’t everyone want informed, provocative, creative, and engaging, hope? And as to readability, the Indian publisher Sudhanva Deshpande says “Erudite and learned, [Realizing Hope's] prose is marked by that increasingly rare commodity, simplicity.” So it is a good and clear read, too.
Can they all be wrong? From the U.S. to South Africa, to Serbia, to Pakistan, to Italy, back to the U.S., and on to India? Maybe, but surely there is at least a plausible case that the book is careful, readable, well thought through, and clear about its claims. So one reason for not reading it – that it is likely to be simple-minded junk – doesn’t apply. That’s far from a motive to read it, of course. Lots of books are good, even excellent, and it doesn’t mean everyone needs to assess them. Maybe this one just isn’t your thing.
The reason behind my claim that you should get Realizing Hope and read it – indeed my entreaty that you do so – is its topic. That’s the crux of it.
Here is a book about social vision, pretty much all dimensions of it, and about accompanying broad strokes strategy. Here is a book that offers content in accord with the feminist, anti-racist, anti authoritarian, anti capitalist left. Here is a book that offers content in accord with the main strains of anti-war, anti corporate globalization, and social justice movements. Here is a book that is in accord with the main strains of Z and ZNet, as well.
“Okay, already,” you say, “there is a case that it isn’t crap. But that’s different than a case that all Sustainers should go out and buy it, for Che’s sake.” Well, fair enough, but I will go out on a limb now. I say there is simply no other book – and if I am wrong and there is one, fine, please go get it and read it too, and please also send me the name of it as well, so I can read it also – trying to provide institutional substance to the claim that we want another world, nearly as broadly and nearly as accessibly, as Realizing Hope.
That’s why I think this book merits your attention. That’s why I think not reading this book would be a mistake. The entreaty to get this book is an entreaty to propel a process of exploration that you and I and all serious leftists need to undertake. This is, I hope, a way to contribute to that exploration. Give it a chance. Or find another way to propel a vision/strategy process. Let me make that same point another way.
How do we build a left able to reach a better world, a left that is bottom up, a left that is controlled by you, if you aren’t going to take possession of and refine and advocate both vision and strategy bearing on that task?
We can’t. It is that simple.
Whether one step is your dealing with Realizing Hope or not – by some means you need to become involved in and propel a visionary, strategic discussion, debate, exploration, and then application – if we are all together to generate shared aims and methods.
If this book isn’t your starting place for such a journey – okay, that’s fine, find another. But you, I, all other Sustainers, and a whole lot more people besides, need to be able to argue compassionately and compellingly for economic, political, cultural, social, international, and ecological vision and for associated strategy too. Without being able to do that, we won’t have a movement that is really about liberation, a movement that attracts participation, a movement that incorporates and wins self management.
My entreaty is simply that you take a little time to see if Realizing Hope is a good step on the road to your contributing to and becoming confident about vision and strategy and then communicating with others about it. And if you do give it a chance and it is a help to you doing that, great, take up the project and tell others to do so too. And if it isn’t a help in those regards to you, okay, please tell me, and I will try again – and, more important, you try too.
Let me put it still another way, to finish up.
Suppose in a new society we want a classless economy that delivers goods and services in accord with human need while enlarging solidarity and diversity, generating just rewards, and fostering self management. Suppose we want political institutions that accomplish legislation, adjudication, and the implementation of collectively mandated projects in a just and libratory rather than in an authoritarian way.
Suppose we want kinship institutions that accomplish procreation, nurturance, socialization, sexual ties, and the daily functions of home life in a feminist and libratory way rather than in a sexist, homophobic, and ageist way.
Suppose we want cultural institutions that accomplish community identification, communication, celebration, and exploration of moral and social group relations in a multicultural and libratory way rather than in a racist, ethnocentric, bigoted, or mutually derogatory (or even genocidal) way.
Suppose we want a new set of global institutions that accomplish international exchange of resources, material products, cultural ideas, and even people and social relations in a peaceful, mutually beneficial and libratory way rather than an imperial, colonial, or even warring way.
Suppose we want to relate to nature mindful of resource depletion and of the effects our choices have on the environment and on us and other species, rather than in a polluting, self destructive, and even unsustainable and cataclysmic way.
Suppose we want to explore the content of the cosmos and employ the ensuing insights in new technologies benefiting human well being and development rather than subordinating people to narrow interests or prejudice.
Suppose we want means to avoid illness and to treat disease and disorder when they arise, with each person having equal rights to these benefits and capacities rather than having a society that systematically produces ill health and dispenses care unequally.
Suppose we want a minimum of theft, fraud, and violent negation of one or more parties by others rather than an epidemic of all these anti-social phenomena, and to deal with the results in ways that are just and donâ€™t abrogate rights and priorities, rather than having rampant crime and dealing with it repressively and without dignity and hope.
Suppose we want education that enables all citizens to discover and fulfill their potentials in accord with all others having room and opportunity to do likewise, rather than restricting most citizens to be subordinate, and elevating only a few to be informed and confident.
Suppose we want media that accomplishes journalistic and entertaining communication in a truthful manner sustaining both social awareness and dissidence rather than in a manner designed to enforce and reproduce existing social biases and to submerge dissent.
Suppose we want artistic, athletic, and all diverse creative and engaging human pursuits carried out at an optimal level of accomplishment but also in accord with social solidarity and self management, rather than at a stunted, commercialized, and biased level of accomplishment and in a manner dividing people into competitive degradation.
Realizing Hope proposes values, institutions, and strategies bearing on all the above aspirations. If the suppose of the above paragraphs is true for you and us all – if we do want all these gains, more or less, and in one form or another – than we need to explore the associated issues. When I say give Realizing Hope a chance I am saying give that process of exploration a chance. Let’s see if we can unleash a degree of commitment and concentration about vision and about associated strategy comparable to what we have unleashed in years past regarding understanding diverse oppressions. I think that’s what we need. So why wouldn’t I ask you to help me help it happen? One way or another? That’s why I sayâ€¦
I’m down on my knees Begging you please Give Realizing Hope a chance
Yours in Struggle, Michael Albert
P.S. Oh yes, I admit, I also just really like the way the little poem sounds! And thanks to Simon and Garfunkel and Jesse Jackson for the poetic flowâ€¦maybe they’ll give the book a chance, too.
P.S.S. I am going to watch the sales data on Amazon to see if this entreaty has any impact. That’s not the only indicator, of course, but it is one that is easy to consult. Be aware, if this note does have a big effect, I will be welcoming other writers for ZNet, when they have new books, to write notes in which they too make a case on behalf of their work. If this note doesn’t have an effect, then I guess there is no point. And just so you know…begging isn’t fun…even in what one believes is a good cause.
Thanks again, Michael Albert