Envisioning Real Utopias

Leading sociologist proposes a new framework for a socialist alternative.
Rising inequality of income and power, along with recent convulsions in the finance sector, have made the search for alternatives to unbridled capitalism more urgent than ever. Yet few are attempting this task—most analysts argue that any attempt to rethink our social and economic relations is utopian. Erik Olin Wright’s major new work is a comprehensive assault on the quietism of contemporary social theory. A systematic reconstruction of the core values and feasible goals for Left theorists and political actors, Envisioning Real Utopias lays the foundations for a set of concrete, emancipatory alternatives to the capitalist system. Characteristically rigorous and engaging, this will become a landmark of social thought for the twenty-first century.


  • “[Wright] builds a strong case for an emancipatory social science.”
  • “A benchmark contribution to necessary radical thinking.”
  • “Encyclopedic in its breadth, daunting in its ambition, this is the culmination of Erik Olin Wright's revamping of Marxism ... Only a thinker of Wright's genius could sustain such a badly needed political imagination without losing analytical clarity and precision.”
  • “Hugely rich and stimulating ... An incisive diagnosis of the harms done by capitalism; a masterful synthesis of the best work in political sociology and political economy over the past thirty years; and innovative theoretical framework for conceptualizing both the goals of progressive change and the strategies for their achievement; and inspiring survey of actually existing challenges to capitalism that have arisen within capitalism itself; and a compelling essay on the relation between the desirable, the viable and the achievable. Anyone interested in the future of leftist politics has to read this book.”
  • “This book is both a manifesto and a guidebook: an argument for taking institutional design seriously, and a guide to how to do that. It's a book that sociologists will want to read, but also, frankly, that everyone in political theory and philosophy should be reading too.”
  • “A fascinating book.”


  • Free ebook from New Left Project: Alternatives to Capitalism by Erik Olin Wright and Robin Hahnel

    New Left Project have released a new ebook, featuring a discussion between distinguished economist Robin Hahnel and sociologist and leading radical thinker Erik Olin Wright. The discussion revolves around the crucial but oft-neglected question of what kind of society should we be fighting for, post-capitalism, and has gained high praise from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Gar Alperovitz and Stuart White.

    Hahnel favours a bottom-up approach of participatory economics, whilst Wright advocates for a 'real utopian socialism’. Alternatives to Capitalism puts these practical proposals through their paces in an in-depth, frank and extremely instructive debate about the central question of our time. 

    Continue Reading

  • "Real Utopias" and the "Revolutionary and Evolutionary" Culture and Politics of Detroit

    Drawing on the work of Jacques Ranciere and Erik Olin Wright, Vince Carducci at Deliberately Considered has written a remarkable reflection on the renewed experience of aesthetic and political community in Detroit. In the face of decades of blight and increased "demassification," the city has, in a stunning dialectical movement, recently begun to witness an unprecedented creative flourishing and reclamation of the city's downtown space. In his article, Carducci points to the ways that the city's neglected spaces, foreclosed homes and abandoned buildings have suddenly come to "open up a new field of cultural production" that has, of late, encouraged young artists to repurpose them and, in effect, reimagine and assert a robust new understanding of the "commons". That is, by using as their raw material the virtually abandoned ruins of the city, artists in Detroit are seizing opportunities to use them to boldly re-articulate new understandings of what public space, community and urban experience mean to them today.

    Continue Reading

  • "Emancipatory social science"—Choice reviews Erik Olin Wright's Envisioning Real Utopias

    Following a string of arguments and rebuttals over Erik Olin Wright's Envisioning Real Utopias, a reviewer in Choice declares that Wright "builds a strong case for an emancipatory social science." The Progressive's Editor, Matthew Rothschild, described the book as a "vision of a radically democratic and egalitarian society—and some ways we might get there." 

    Sociologist Wright (Univ. of Wisconsin) uses critiques of capitalism and commitment to social justice as his starting point and builds a strong case for an emancipatory social science investigating what he calls desirable, viable, and achievable alternatives to capitalist social, political and economic organization. He clearly states analytical distinctions and definitions and supplies excellent examples; discusses capitalism and its critiques; and contrasts socialism (emphasizing the social), capitalism, and statism in his discussion of economic, state, and social power and the potential for social empowerment through civil society. Wright acknowledges challenges to achieving social justice goals in social transformation and gives examples of projects that he sees as indicative of democratic egalitarianism: Wikipedia; participatory city budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil; Spain's Mondragon cooperatives; community land trusts; and the fair trade movement. Of interest for sociology, labour studies, anthropology, political economy, and social work collections. Recommended. [E. Kingsolver, University of South Carolina]   

Other books by Erik Olin Wright