One of my favourite kind of books is one that seeks to defy categorisation. Once that blend philosophy, history, current affairs, and others, into something powerful and meaningful. This is possible both within fiction and non-fiction. As there are plenty of books that blend both these categories as well, we know that this is hard to do right, and it takes both skill as a writer, and acute understanding of your subject matter to do it correctly. But, this is what Utopia for Realists does brilliantly, and with dash of optimism as well.
Rutger Bregman has come to greater renown following a damning tongue lashing he gave the assembled philanthropists at the annual meeting of the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But his ideas are much older, though Bregman and those that agree with him are blessed with the hindsight of years and the data from past experiments to base their “new” theories.
In an often funny, and dramatical straight forward manner, Bregman lays out what the future of our planet could look like, if we just embraced the reality of our situation.
In Utopia for Realists, we learn the story of Basic Income (which I’ll go into in a moment), but also discover so much more about working life, and the quality of the very lives we lead. As Bregman states fro the outset, we (in the majority of the western world) now live in a version of Utopia. Many of things out reach for ordinary people 150 years ago, are now, for the most part, widely available. Things like, medical care, free education that lasts through our entire childhood, and sometimes much longer, and access to huge varieties of food would make any person plucked out of time believe they had arrive in a promised land.
But this is not what this book is about, because Utopia is not a destination that you reach. A true Utopia is something always strived towards, an idea worth reaching, together. And that is what this book is about, the next step.
What is Basic Income? Bluntly put, for dramatic effect, its giving people free money. And when you read it first it sounds so ludicrous you keep reading largely to see just how mad this book is going to be, but then, its not mad. We’re mad. Utterly. Because the facts, are right in front of our face. We just can’;t believe the reality. Bregman separates out economics, current affairs, psychology, technology, and ecology, and then shows the lines that are drawn between them. Telling the story of how a 17th century idea, can work now more than ever.
A good non-fiction book can make you laugh, make you mad, shock you, and most importantly educate you. And this does all of these things among others it would just be gratuitous to list. It as enjoyable as it is accessible and I defy you to not become obsessed with.
In the end this is a Philosophy book, but in its essence it is a lesson in how to use our greatest capital. One that we squander so easily, and are perhaps most desperate never to squander: Time. And I’m glad I took the time to read it.
(c) Emmet J. Driver
Order your copy online here.