Practical Utopia has recently been published by PM Press. Below is the introduction…
Practical Utopia is about understanding society and history, envisioning a new future, and attaining it.
We are born, nurtured as children, schooled, socialized, and grow up.
We work for incomes. We celebrate particular heritages and beliefs. We romance partners and create families. And then it all happens again, assuming war, poverty, and other disasters don’t interfere.
Societies have important aspects that mediate key social functions like being born, nurtured, and socialized; contributing to and consuming society’s product; learning and enjoying a language, heritage, and culture; enjoying or suffering environmental effects; and enjoying or suffering relations with other societies.
Indeed, helping people accomplish these many functions is society’s reason for being, so to understand societies we should understand how accomplishing these diverse functions affects our options in life.
A society is a set of relations that enables its citizens to get together to accomplish key kin, community, economic, and political functions. If new social relations exist that would work significantly better for the necessary functions than the old social relations a society has, and if the costs of attaining the new relations wouldn’t outweigh or subvert the benefits, then it is time for a change.
As we write this introduction, across the Mideast and North Africa, from Spain to Greece and throughout Europe, in unexpected but expanding parts of the U.S., in large sectors of Asia including India and China, and perhaps most compellingly in South and Latin America, substantial and sometimes majoritarian populations are rejecting existing relations and militantly and publicly pursuing new desires.
Minds are changing. Regimes are falling. New structures are emerging. Tumultuous times, tumultuous changes.
Yet victories are not inevitable. To win sought after goals people must advance from pain and anger to action, from separated to entwined, and from struggling to victorious. Beyond momentary victories, we need trajectories of gains which accumulate and diversify into new social relations.
Revolutions replace that which conditions events and arrangements. They go to the roots of how people live. They transform nearly everything. And that is the aim.
Billions of people around the world live in abject poverty. Billions are hungry. Even greater numbers lack the free time and healthy space to experience life fully and fruitfully.
Even where more wealth exists and life lasts longer and is less hellish, dignity is scarce. Lying, cheating, aggrandizing, and even killing are the basic touchstones of much of daily life. Economics, politics, community, and family too impose horrendous costs on humanity. Why should survival require vicious venality?
The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Wall Street counts profits, ignores suffering, and proclaims an upturn.
Bombs burst over daily lives. Politicians salute the rubble. Arms makers celebrate bloated dividends. Soldiers inhabit rotting caskets or face life anatomically and psychologically maimed.
Producers of medicines, houses, food, and virtually everything else pursue profits for a few while curtailing generalized well being for all. Food chains and mega farms guard their blessings while significant portions of humanity lack food or endure processed food’s dietary debits. Palaces of power. Orgies of wealth.
Temperatures and storms accelerate on a doomsday trajectory while the rich and powerful sip margaritas on the deck of Spaceship Earth glorying in the pretty vistas they see through blind bloodshot eyes.
Society’s monarchs have their heads stuck in appetizers. Their eyes face the ground. Their noses sniff in the troughs of other people’s pain.
Every person on this planet who dies of preventable disease or starvation – and that is tens of millions of people each year – was socially murdered. Every child that never gets to experience their own full talents and capacities or to enjoy a loving stable environment is a soul crushing crime against young humanity. Every person laboring in comprehensively boring, debilitating conditions, enjoying no stature and meager income, is one more soul subordinated to greed and power.
The interpersonal rapes, thefts, and murders that clog streets with victims, the large scale systematic bending of wills and motives, and the subordination, impoverishment, psychological rape, material denigration, and social and even biological murder of countless souls encompasses a massively unjust misallocation of knowledge and circumstances that doesn’t have to happen. And that’s only in the empire’s homeland. Imagine the periphery.
There is only one coherent or even moderately sane argument against fundamentally reconstituting society on a transformed foundation to eradicate all this deprivation and pain. And even that one argument – which is the assertion that a revolutionary redefinition would only make things worse because there is no viable alternative – is itself, as we will see, no more than another transparent lie.
To create a new society an activist “social change team” needs to know where it will start, its final goal, and how to get from start to finish, which is precisely the subject matter of this book.
The only thing hard about getting ready to be skilled at matters of social change is that it entails arriving at and holding on to thought patterns and insights very different than what we are used to thinking and believing. This is not difficult or “deep” but it can be hard because it’s “different.” And that’s where this book hopes to be helpful.