I can’t say that Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias provided me with any particular, brilliant insight, and I suppose someone better read in social theory or analytical Marxism than I might have found parts of the book belabored. Even I would agree that it was often repetitious, though I think I think Russell Jacoby was simply talking nonsense when he called the book a
“morass.” Overall though, nearly three years since I first read it, I still consider it a masterful work. Wright’s case for separating the socialist project from the conceptual apparatus of traditional Marxism–from its theory of history to its necessarily revolutionary implications–in favor of a “compass” which orients us as we move down numerous different, possibly hybrid routes, towards a greater level of social power and democratic egalitarianism, was entirely persuasive to me. Of all those routes, the one which most intrigues me is one which invites reflections that are rarely identified as “socialist,” but more usually localist, communitarian, even Burkean (hence my title of this review). But let me come around to that conclusion the long way.

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