Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Most writers on utopia tend to take a ‘two cheers’ approach to the subject. Utopias are all well in theory, it is said, but attempts to put them into practice are bound to end in disaster. The political experiments of the twentieth century tell us all we need to know: utopias should be regarded, not as serious political interventions, but as a kind of social poetry.

This attitude has something to be said for it, but taken to its logical conclusion it denies utopia, and utopian writing, its driving philosophical impetus, which, in the most interesting examples of the genre, emerges from a deep dissatisfaction with society and an equally deep desire to change it.

It’s all very well to reflect that utopias are apt to degenerate into dystopias, and even that there is something repellent about the idea of a perfect society per se. But what’s the point of a hypothesis if you’re not going to design an experiment to test it? [More here.]