Envisioning Real Utopias has been one of the most realistic and optimistic approaches to speculative post-capitalist thinking that we’ve read so far. Wright himself says that this type of thinking creates “Utopian ideals that are grounded in the real potential of humanity” (pg. 6).
This reading was comforting at times, to know that those thinking about the future of our state are so completely understanding what it takes to make systematic change and not underestimating the unforeseen chaos that will inevitably accompany even our best ideas since we can’t count on the perfection of humanity. In fact, Wright recognizes that the unintentional consequences of intentional consequences can become quite grand. He doesn’t agree that the negatives are greater than the positives, but admits that they can’t be totally dismissed as we idealize. Here, we have to be honest with ourselves and Wright says “incremental tinkering may not be inspiring, but it’s the best we can do” (pg 7) and in his online lecture asks “can a capitalist state contribute to eroding capitalism?”. If we’re admitting that systematic change is necessary, we can’t just talk about what this will look like in 2038. We need to consider what being anti-capitalist looks like today.
At the end of chapter 2, Wright introduces the structure of thinking that he delves into in the lecture:
- Diagnose and critique
- Formulating alternatives
- Elaborating strategies of transformation
Wright says that his work with Imagining Real Utopias was largely focused on the second step of brainstorming alternatives (some he lists in chapter 1, like participatory city budgeting, Wikipedia, mondragon worker-owned cooperatives, and unconditional basic income).
The part that spurred the most questions for me was his discussion on social justice, absolutely not the intention or rights of human flourishing, but the worry of the ways we might struggle to put into legal terms such a subjective place of contentment and satisfaction. How far can we go to define what people really need? From an honest and emotional standpoint, I worry that humans have a way of constantly failing to find satisfaction. The best we could reasonably do is ‘good enough’, which is just that, admittedly, completely good enough. But I feel we tend to strive and desire much more than that.
Wright compares finding our best potential as people to an acorn containing an oak inside of it. We can work towards equipping people to grow, and hopefully make that acorn to become an oak tree. I worry, what if the acorn decides it also wants to be artificially blue, and synthetically glittery, and wants the state to also support a branch cosmetic surgery and falls into a cycle where we work to support and supplement the oak? I think after each support beyond the full growth of the oak tree, the emotional state of the tree will somehow still leaving some level of emptiness.
It’s a vulnerable, sad, and honest thought to discuss this looming emptiness we tend to feel and live our whole lives feeding as humans, and something others might not feel, but my concern all in all is just that we will move towards a healthy and positive movement of social justice, and poison and abuse the system by trying to make the state feed our souls. We can absolutely ask to be treated well enough, but to be satisfied by this, is potentially a black hole we cannot fill.