Erik Olin Wright has done a great service with his latest, ENVISIONING REAL UTOPIAS. He applies his analytical powers (Wright is a founder of "analytical marxism") to the question of how to move beyond capitalism. This 373-page book continues the Real Utopias Project which Wright began with others in the early 1990s after the collapse of the USSR, which has so far led to six books from Verso and this new one. According to Wright, what he and his collaborators "...wanted to achieve was a clear elaboration of workable institutional principles that could inform emancipatory alternatives to the existing world."
One of Wright's contributions is to separate socialism from statism, so that capitalism becomes one of three possibilities. Not only the right, but the left as well, has come to conflate socialism and statism, and it is a crucial step toward mental as well as social emancipation to stop reinforcing the right-wing's narrative by supporting this conflation.
Here is the table of contents:
1) Introduction: Why Real Utopias?
2) The Tasks of Emancipatory Social Science
I) Diagnosis and Critique
3) What's So Bad About Capitalism?
4) Thinking About Alternatives to Capitalism
5) The Socialist Compass
6) Real Utopias I: Social Empowerment and the State
7) Real Utopias II: Social Empowerment and the Economy
8) Elements of a Theory of Transformation
9) Ruptural Transformation
10) Interstitial Transformation
11) Symbiotic Transformation
Conclusion: Making Utopias Real
Ruptural transformation is basically revolutionary or Leninist, interstitial transformation is basically anarchist, and symbiotic transformation is basically social democratic. Wright does not advocate one or the other, but analyzes the obstacles, potential benefits and limitations of each. Clearly he leans toward symbiotic or social democratic transformation, but he is aware that so far it has not led beyond capitalism. He concludes by calling for creative and energetic experimentation guided by the "socialist compass" of social empowerment.
Russel Jacoby threw a tantrum and called it a review of this book, but that's his problem. If you think that simplistic emotionalism is going to do the job of replacing capitalism with an egalitarian world, then this is not your book. If you think, to the contrary, that it is going to be difficult and might require some serious thought, then do not be dissuaded. (Jacoby also attacked sociology in its entirety, and I am a sociologist, so I am not inclined to take him seriously. He's just a historian and an essayist.)
This book is of great potential value for anyone on the left trying to think about how to move forward in the 21st century!