This book is a lightweight reading for those who are interested in the overall question on how to change capitalism to make it a liveable, more just and equal space for all on this globe. Specifically, the core of the reasoning is based on the "free money to everyone", the basic income, and the fifteen-hour workweek topics – the topics for Bregman got to be known by the wider public since years – and the topics which represent the most grounded parts of the book. It is a journey through course material in economics, social and development studies with a storytelling narration. The examples based on the classics are presented vividly, taking space from in-depth analysis, or thoroughly constructed insights. This reading is an introduction with an overview, that can be easily read commuting on a train, or on a weekend.
Despite of the fresh provoking tone and mainstreaming effort of putting through ideas of a more just income distribution, and the right for income, there are no overturning ideas, and "no revolution" in foresight, as "capitalism is a fantastic engine for prosperity" (p.46) after all. The book is convincing with bringing up data and referencing reports in proof of how the extreme inequality that the world and many nations are facing today is inefficient and in fact challenges prosperity, but it is not reflecting on the roots of where inequality stems from: the structure of global capitalism. We learn a lot though about the symptoms, the surveillance, the bullshit jobs, the inefficient welfare programmes and the bailouts of the financial crisis of 2008.
The perspective the book takes falls somewhere between the US society's problems, with some references to the EU (and the Netherlands). The global social and economic impact, however that a possible change of the "utopian" turn of the 15-hours week, the basic income and the open borders would cause is missing. The chapter on open borders is full of optimism, humanist rhetoric, and stats on how migrants contribute to the economy of the receiving countries, but the problems of the countries of origin due to population loss, brain drain, care drain, and the actual push factors of migration (war, global inequality) and how shall they be addressed are being overlooked. Ironically it falls into the neoliberal vision of the global labour-market, ripping the benefits of incoming cheap and available labour.
Chapters later walk the reader through the story of the "neoliberal" thought from the hayday of economists to the implementation in politics of the late 70s to the 90s, just to point out the ineptitude of the current political "left", that as being depicted rather as a comedy than real political force.
Finally, the book is raising intriguing questions challenging the libertarian tradition of the westernized societies, such as "what is the value of freedom of speech, when we no longer have anything worthwhile to say?" or "what purpose does freedom of religion serve, when we no longer believe in anything?". It seems that these questions are being addressed not to the entire population of what constitutes a society today, as it is not reflecting the diversity, movements, and the challenges these societies face exactly in these sections of values.
The challenging path to create a more equal global society though remains as the title suggests an utopia, with no pragmatic implications, or basic building blocks of strategy.
Julianna Faludi PhD is a sociologist and writer. She is interested in the relationship of technology, society and the arts, and ethical consumption. Her background is in economic sociology, development studies, and humanities. As a professor she has a track record in lecturing courses in Innovation, Branding, the Arts, Russia studies, and Sociology. Beforehand she worked with regional development in different roles. Julianna has experience in broadcasting, giving talks, and writing. She masters several languages, Russian, Italian, English, French and Hungarian.
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