Utopia and the Critique of Political Economy
In my article, published in the Winter 2017, No. 79 issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy (JAPE), based on my 2016 E. L. Wheelwright Memorial Lecture, I show that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had a much more positive assessment and appreciation of “utopian socialism,” especially the work of Robert Owen, than we find in traditional, “scientific” interpretations of Marxism (emanating from both inside and outside the Marxian tradition). I also connect that debate over utopian socialism to the rich, long history of intentional communities and utopian literature in Australia, beginning with Herrnhut in 1853. Finally, I argue that, while Marxian theory is not a utopianism (unlike, for example, neoclassical economics), it does have what I consider to be a “utopian moment,” which is based on the idea of ruthless criticism. In my view, it is the twofold critique of political economy—the critique of capitalism and of mainstream economic theory—that needs to be recaptured and rethought, since it is particularly relevant to the debate about the causes and consequences of the crash of 2007-08 and the ongoing crises of capitalism in the world today.
Previous Wheelwright Lectures have been delivered by Walden Bello (2008), Jim Stanford (2009), Fred Block (2010), Sheila Dow (2011), Diane Elson (2012), Susan George (2013), Leo Panitch (2014), and Erik Olin Wright (2015).
The decennial Wheelwright Lecture will be delivered by J.K. Gibson-Graham on Thursday 26 October 2017, with further details HERE.