Imagining Utopias

It’s often been said that this is not only a socio-economic crisis of systemic proportions, but also a crisis of the imagination. And how could this be otherwise? Decades of being told There Is No Alternative, that liberal capitalism is the only rational way of organizing society, has atrophied our ability to imagine social forms of life that defy the bottom line. Yet positive affirmations of another world do exist here and there, in neighbourhood assemblies, community organizations, art collectives and collective practices, the Occupy camps… It is only difficult to tell what exactly the notion of progress is that ties these disparate small-is-beautiful alternatives together: What type of utopias can we imagine today?

With his theories of radical libertarianism Murray Bookchin, among many others, has offered up a vision of utopia incorporating a strong emphasis on cooperation, equality, mutual aid, feminism, liberation, and ecological wisdom. His work has influenced the the writing of literary utopianists like Ursula le Guin (The Dispossessed), who along with others, most notably Marge Piercy (Woman on the Edge of Time), and Sally Miller Gaerhart (Wanderground) have dared to imagine specific versions of utopianism.

Banned from “mature” politics, the task of representing utopia has generally been women’s work. As feminists distanced themselves from the ’68 macho revolutionary culture (be it party politics or guerilla tactics), they turned to the politics of everyday life. Whether in literature or in intentional communities and affinity groups, women risked the cardinal sin of politics – being unrealistic and impractical, by building utopias from the ground up around activities they were told did not have a proper place in politics: eating, cleaning, housing, care and education. If the material foundation of capitalist domination was to be found in the home, utopia would also have to start at home, from the basic activities that reproduce the body in all its difference and social relationality.

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NEW book out on Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin provided one of the first practical and theoretical responses to the ecological crises of our time, through his elucidation of the political and philosophical ideas he called social ecology. However, in his later life an undue focus on Murray the individual came to obscure the relevance of his body of work.

In Recovering Bookchin, Dr Andy Price sets out to reclaim for Murray the centrality of his ideas and ideals, repositioning his legacy from an over-emphasised caricaturisation of a dogmatic sectarian to a more balanced acknowledgement of Murray’s invaluable contribution: a radical, visionary response to the ecological and social crises of our time.

Dr Andy Price is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. He has written articles on both Bookchin and social ecology and on contemporary radical movements for the academic and popular press.

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Last day!

“An anarchist society, far from being a remote ideal, has become a precondition for the practice of ecological principles,” Murray Bookchin (‘Ecology and Revolutionary Thought’, 1963)

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2 days to go!

“The notion that man must dominate nature emerges directly from the domination of man by man”, Murray Bookchin (‘Post-Scarcity Anarchism, 1971).

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3 days to go! Bookchin on Bookchin

“Humanity has passed through a long history of one-sidedness and of a social condition that has always contained the potential of destruction, despite its creative achievements in technology”, Murray Bookchin (‘The Ecology of Freedom’, 1982)

 

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Bookchin on Bookchin 4 days to go!

“And as long as hierarchy persists (…) the project of dominating nature will continue to exist and inevitably lead our planet to ecological extinction”, Murray Bookchin (‘Toward an Ecological Society’, 1974)

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5 days to go!

“The old substance of exploitative society reappears in new forms, draped in a red flag, decorated by portraits of Mao (or Castro or Che) and adorned with the little ‘Red Book’ and other sacred litanies”, Murray Bookchin (‘Listen, Marxist’ in ‘Post-Scarcity Anarchism’ 1971)

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6 days to go!

“Capitalism is a social cancer. It has always been a social cancer. It is the disease of society. It is the malignancy of society.”, Murray Bookchin.

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11 days to go!

“Partial ‘solutions’ serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis”, Murray Bookchin (‘The Ecology of Freedom’, 1982).

 

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12 days to go!

“Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing“, Murray Bookchin (‘Remaking Society’, 1990).

 

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