We should do things now which put us in the best position to do more later
Erik Olin Wright, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, has studied social stratification and explored egalitarian alternative futures to capitalism. His major contribution is the ‘Real Utopias’ project most recently developed in Envisioning Real Utopias (London: Verso, 2010). A week long visit to Ireland in early March 2013 is being used as an opportunity to foster an Irish debate about alternatives for transformation.
He argues we need to identify alternatives within and beyond capitalism to move towards what he calls “a social socialism”. Putting the social back into socialism requires principles of an egalitarian social justice where all can ‘flourish’ and radical democratic empowerment where all can participate meaningfully in decisions. He uses the term “social empowerment” to think about a range of future possibilities for socialism that have generally not been given a central place within what has often been a ‘statist’ socialist politics.
Transformation requires understanding the ways in which strategies of transformation have real long-term prospects of eroding capitalist power relations, and building up real socialist alternatives where the ‘social’ rather than the state or the market are at the centre of power relations.
He concludes that the appropriate orientation towards strategies of social transformation, is to do things now which put us in the best position to do more later; to work to create those institutions and structures which increase, rather than decrease, the prospects of taking advantages of whatever historical opportunities emerge. He encourages strategic pluralism in the practices of transformation and he argues for greater levels of respect and co-operation among different political traditions of anti-capitalism which must be understood as complementary rather than antagonistic.
NUI Maynooth will host a day of twelve workshops exploring Irish Alternatives for Transformation on March 9th. Workshop topics include: co-operatives; social enterprise; the commons; basic income; participative democracy; care and work; minimum and maximum income; and housing and community
Erik Olin Wright will speak on Transformation in the University of Limerick on March 4th and in University College Cork on March 5th. He will speak on climate change and peak oil in the Cloughjordan ecovillage on March 6th: www.nuim.ie/nirsa/news