In the face of Earth's environmental breakdown, it is clear that technological innovation alone won't save our planet. A more radical approach is required, one that involves profound changes in individual and collective behaviour. Utopianism for a Dying Planet examines the ways the expansive history of utopian thought, from its origins in ancient Sparta and ideas of the Golden Age through to today's thinkers, can offer moral and imaginative guidance in the face of catastrophe. The utopian tradition, which has been critical of conspicuous consumption and luxurious indulgence, might light a path to a society that emphasizes equality, sociability, and sustainability.
Gregory Claeys unfolds his argument through a wide-ranging consideration of utopian literature, social theory, and intentional communities. He defends a realist definition of utopia, focusing on ideas of sociability and belonging as central to utopian narratives. He surveys the development of these themes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before examining twentieth- and twenty-first-century debates about alternatives to consumerism. Claeys contends that the current global warming limit of 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) will result in cataclysm if there is no further reduction in the cap. In response, he offers a radical Green New Deal program, which combines ideas from the theory of sociability with proposals to withdraw from fossil fuels and cease reliance on unsustainable commodities.
An urgent and comprehensive search for antidotes to our planet's destruction, Utopianism for a Dying Planet asks for a revival of utopian ideas, not as an escape from reality, but as a powerful means of changing it.
Gregory Claeys is professor emeritus of the history of political thought at the University of London. His many books include Marx and Marxism and Searching for Utopia.
"When self-styled 'realists' respond to looming environmental collapse by defending business as usual, utopian thinking becomes itself a form of realism. Dispelling the illusions of those who have not understood the magnitude of the social and personal changes needed to confront our current crisis, Claeys presents a forceful account of the twenty-first-century utopia we must embrace as a condition of planetary survival."
– Kate Soper, emeritus professor of philosophy, London Metropolitan University
"A timely rethinking of the usefulness of the utopian tradition in the light of climate change and the consequent necessity to add in sustainability as one of its essential components."
– Gareth Stedman Jones, author of Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion
"Original, punctiliously researched, and erudite, Utopianism for a Dying Planet suggests a possible and potentially effective way of responding to what is increasingly and universally seen as the gravest crisis ever faced by humanity."
– Artur Blaim, University of Gdansk