Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis

“For anyone who cares about historical necessity, the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.” – Rachel Kushner
After the financial crash and the Great Recession, the media rediscovered Karl Marx, socialist theory, and the very idea that capitalism can be questioned.

But in spite of the publicity, the main paths of contemporary critical thought have gone unexplored outside of the academy. Benjamin Kunkel’s Utopia or Bust leads readers—whether politically committed or simply curious—through the most important critical theory today. Written with the wit and verve of Kunkel’s best-selling novel, Indecision, this introduction to contemporary Leftist thinkers engages with the revolutionary philosophy of Slavoj Žižek, the economic analyses of David Graeber and David Harvey, and the cultural diagnoses of Fredric Jameson. Discussing the ongoing crisis of capitalism in light of ideas of full employment, debt forgiveness, and “fictitious capital,” Utopia or Bust is a tour through the world of Marxist thought and an examination of the basis of Western society today.


  • “Playful and unfailingly lucid...the book is one of the most enjoyable pieces of Marxist criticism in many years.”
  • “Rigorous and unapologetically Marxist.”
  • “The new sensation of literary New York.”
  • “Kunkel and his fellow co-founders of literary journal n+1 have recently been identified as members of a new generation of ‘public intellectuals.'”
  • “Benjamin Kunkel has pursued a lonely and taxing crash course in Marxist thought, the results of which, set forth here, are nimble, clear, and brave. He dedicates the book to anyone who can use it, which I’ll take a step further: it’s for anyone who cares about historical necessity, the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.”
  • “It’s wonderful to see Benjamin Kunkel turn his considerable talents from the business of novelwriting to these political essays—models of the genre, with plenty to offer to both newcomers to and veterans of radical thought.”
  • “Benjamin Kunkel, aside from having mastered the voice of bemused neuroticism in Indecision, has one of the most interesting minds around.”
  • “Those looking for alternatives, explanations, and a critical map of where Leftist thought stands in our current neoliberal age will find Utopia or Bust a must-read.”
  • “Six elegantly turned essays on contemporary Marxist thinkers”
  • “Kunkel follows his cult novel with this primer on the big names on radical reading lists, from Karl Marx to Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek”


  • All Jacobin titles are 50% off through Sunday

    To celebrate the release of the newest Jacobin title CLASS WAR: THE PRIVITIZATION OF CHILDHOOD by Megan Erickson, all five Jacobin titles are 50% off on our website through Sunday, October 4th at 10pm ET.

    Includes free shipping (worldwide) and free bundled ebook!

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  • Economics Undergraduate Reading List: 50% off!

    All the books on this list are 50% off until Tuesday 8th September as part of our Back to University/Back to School sale. See all the books included in the sale here.

    Remember kids! "Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks." Get ready to go back to school by reading Verso's Economics 101 syllabus. 

    Companion to Marx’s Capital Volume 1 & Volume 2
    By David Harvey

    This is a must-read for anyone wanting a fuller understanding of Marx's political economy.

    “No short review can do justice to this outstanding book ... Essential.”
    – Michael Perelman, Choice

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    For the benefit of those who haven't read the Guardian's comment (anti)coverage of Jeremy Corbyn's campaign, I've compiled all 100,000 words into this handy digested read.

    Sorry but huge crowds do not translate into electoral success. We need to be looking for small crowds, people, SMALL CROWDS. About 10 people would be ideal; roughly the size of our little party at Saffron and Cosmo’s place last night, where everyone agreed that while o̲f̲ ̲c̲o̲u̲r̲s̲e̲ our red hearts lie instinctively with socialism, it’s quite clear that we must make credible policy proposals such as supporting workfare or implementing austerity, or we’ll have a Conservative government implementing austerity and supporting workfare until 2025.

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