Challenging – and maybe transcending – Capitalism through Real Utopias


Lecture

Erik Olin Wright

15th May 2017, 6-7.30pm

Chair:
Eszter Kollár (Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders")

Discussants:
Thomas Biebricher (Goethe-University Frankfurt)
Nicholas Vrousalis (Universiteit Leiden)

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Campus Westend
Gebäude "Normative Ordnungen", EG 01
Max-Horkheimer-Str. 2, 60323 Frankfurt am Main

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Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias will be published in German, Reale Utopien - Wege aus dem Kapitalismus, by Suhrkamp in May 2017.

Abstract
While capitalism has become more destructive both to the lives of people and the health of the environment, it seems to most people an unalterable force of nature. Social democratic hopes of taming capitalism by neutralizing its harmful effects through decisive state regulations have been undermined by the globalization and financialization of capital. Revolutionary ambitions of smashing capitalism through a ruptural seizure of state power, a coercive dissolution of capitalist institutions and their replacement by an emancipatory alternative, lack credibility. Are these the only logics of transformation? There may be a different route that points beyond capitalism: eroding capitalism by revitalizing the state’s capacity to democratically subordinate the market from above, by strengthening initiatives from below to build emancipatory alternatives in the spaces and cracks within capitalist economies where this is possible, and by struggling politically to defend and expand such spaces. These are central aspirations of constructing real utopias.

CV
Erik Olin Wright was born in Berkeley, California, in 1947, grew up in Kansas, and was educated at Harvard, Balliol College, Oxford, and the University of California-Berkeley, where he received his PhD in Sociology in 1976. He has taught sociology at the University of Wisconsin since 1976 where he is currently C. Wright Mills Professor of Sociology and Vilas Distinguished Research Professor. His academic work has been centrally concerned with reconstructing the Marxist tradition of social theory and research in ways that attempt to make it more relevant to contemporary concerns and more cogent as a scientific framework of analysis. His empirical research has focused especially on the changing character of class relations in developed capitalist societies. Since 1992 he has directed The Real Utopias Project which explores a wide range of proposals for new institutional designs that embody emancipatory ideals and yet are attentive to issues of pragmatic feasibility. He was president of the American Sociological Association in 2011-12.

His principal publications include: The Politics of Punishment (Harper Collins, 1973); Class, Crisis and the State (New Left Books, 1978); Class Structure and Income Determination (Academic Press, 1979); Classes (Verso, 1985); The Debate on Classes (Verso, 1990); Reconstructing Marxism: essays on Explanation and the Theory of History (with Elliott Sober and Andrew Levine. Verso, 1992); Interrogating Inequality (Verso, 1994); Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Deepening Democracy: institutional innovations in empowered participatory governance (with Archon Fung. London: Verso: 2003); Approaches to Class Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Envisioning Real Utopias (Verso, 2010); American Society: how it really works (jointly with Joel Rogers. W.W. Norton, 2011; second edition, 2015); Understanding Class (Verso: 2015); and Alternatives to Capitalism (jointly with Robin Hahnel, Verso, 2016). He is also the editor of the Real Utopias Project series, published by Verso Books. He is currently working on a new manuscript, How to be an Anti-Capitalist in the 21st Century.

Website: www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright

Organization: Chair of International Political Theory, Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders"

 

Video:

Audio:

 

Presented by:
Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders"

 


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