I never identified myself with leftwing politics until, sometime in the 1990’s, I read Noam Chomsky, and a short time after that, his friend and long time collaborator, Michael Albert. Much of the left, it had seemed to me, was riddled with bad ideas and hypocrisy. What these two guys, and a small group of others engaged in similar work, were pointing to seemed to me to be an authentic alternative. Albert calls this alternative a “participatory society” (hence the PS in the
title of his new book) which is a vision that has developed out of the left-libertarian tradition that, in turn, has some important strategic implications for revolutionary social transformation (hence the R in
These two questions – vision: What future do we want? and strategy: How will we get it? have dominated Albert’s political life for over 40 years. He has written many books (sometimes with others) and hundreds of articles as well as given dozens of talks on the topic. Drawing on a rich tradition, and in collaboration with others, he has developed what probably constitutes the most important set of ideas around today – ideas that could, if implemented, actually address the serious problems that the left is so good at highlighting. However, Albert’s previous presentations of these ideas have typically been in a more formal and non-fiction style (for readers who prefer this kind of thing see Albert’s Practical Utopia which is also published this year).
RPS/2044 is, then, a work of fiction. Set in the future (hence 2044 it presents an account of a successful revolution. Although the book is set in America, readers who are not based there should not be put off reading it as the themes covered are applicable to many other parts of the world. The device employed to pull off this challenging project is that of a series of interviews with a diverse group of playfully named characters (you will see what I mean when you read the
book). The book itself is made up of 30 chapters, each one covering a different theme and set of issues. These range from the rise of Trump to the issues of health, athletics, acting, media, law, campus and education, workplace design and organisation, elections, as well as the more practical issues of day-to-day organising. As you make your way through the book you will encounter, page by page, ideas and themes that have the effect of evaporating the cynicism generated by both left and rightwing dogma and the unexplored assumptions on which these depend.
If you know anything about the force of nature commonly referred to as Michael Albert you will know that this book is not intended to be read for pleasure alone. On the contrary! It is a book written to inspire an actual revolution along the lines of that described in the book. If you are looking for a nice light read rooted in romance or want to cringe at dystopian images or wonder at outer space marvels then this book is not for you! On the other hand, if you are a
dogmatic leftist or general cynic then this book is your medicine! Likewise, if you are a committed, flexible, informed activist, then this book is nourishment! If you are young and know that things are far from right in the world and looking for ideas to inform your path forward then, I would suggest, this book is especially for you!
Read it. Discuss it. Then organise: http://rps2044.org/
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The problem with all this to me Mark is, will those who write testimonials and blogs read the whole thing and discuss it and promote it in a way that fosters involvement from your average punter like myself. After having gone on the site, posted a few comments and saw nothing really eventuate re discussion, on the site, I just became depressed and lost interest, like what happened to the shared program, the Z School and like IOPS.
Maybe it will be discussed among a few small groups tucked away from the internet in various geographic locations around the world or just the US, like me discussing it with maybe a couple of ex Melbourne IOPS chapter members over coffee, but is that all that’s needed. And who’s gonna listen to me anyway, I’m just some dude who read some weird arse book, so even if I sent it off to radio station people and other media, which I do, nothing ever happens…nothing…ever. Who the hell am I?
Like it became quite depressing going on the RPS site and seeing these weird arse posts that were obviously bugs or bots or things that plague websites, not real comments from real people, like tumbleweeds floating through a ghost town and not being removed. If these things are to be beneficial, surely those who write testimonials have to get get involved seriously, start the ball rolling, create some momentum. Like Pilger himself could write some high profile article, post it on the site, at Z, have it published by The Independent or whatever newspaper he’s at.
I mean the IOPS site could be used by many as a place for focused discussion started by sensible people unlike myself…it’s still up you know. Considering IOPS is basically built on the same stuff as RPS, coming from the same stuff and the same voices who wrote testimonials for RPS wrote them for IOPS.
I would love RPS to succeed, but promotional devices are surely just the beginning and need to be followed up by those who wrote them, showing that they weren’t just promoting the product but were actually involved and using it?
I’m writing this not to publicly vent depressing shite but as a critique of these initiatives that seem to always show a disconnect between what they offer and what actually transpires in reality. Ordinary people reading this stuff and discussing it won’t be the ones really driving its insights into the psyches of the many, but rather, those with experience, networks and organising skills jumping on board big time.
Me reading it and discussing it is nothing compared to Sanders or Corbyn being handed it by people they respect. Pilger writing more thoroughly about it beyond a meaningless testimonial is worth more than me handing a lefty thinking minor celebrity here in Melb Practical Utopia and asking him to tell me what he thinks. Russell Brand being contacted by his mate David Graeber and told to read it and think seriously about it is a worthy idea worth pursuing that goes further than me talking about it to my employer or brother in law or family and friends, which I do, embarrassingly and in a fumbly way.
Sorry. Always the killjoy huh!
What you have read was written as a customer review for Amazon. It was not intended for people like you who already know this stuff but Michael liked it and posted it here. The frustration you express as a result of reading my review was not intentional!