Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There

by Rutger Bregman

Paperback, 2018



Call number



Bloomsbury (2018)


"A noted Dutch journalist and economist proposes an outline for a new worldwide Utopia, with central tenets including a shortened work week, a guaranteed basic income for all, wealth redistribution, and open borders everywhere"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member DavidWineberg
Utopia For Realists is a Left manifesto. It explores three policies guaranteed to enrage right wingers: a guaranteed income, a shorter work week and open borders. Rutger Bregman does it with splendid panache. The book is a totally positive, upbeat read – most unusual for a defensive, defeatist
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Left. The studies and the facts are all there. Deny them at your peril, he seems to say.

To appreciate and enjoy Utopia For Realists, you must buy into the initial premise that our problem is we can’t come up with anything better than the way things are now. We have run out of goals. We have run out of ideas. We are all about cutting back, servicing less, and ignoring various elephants in the room, like automation overloading us with leisure time. Western society is so wealthy in historic terms that we don’t realize we have reached Utopia. Even at our worst, we are infinitely better off than our forebears. What we need now is a new Utopia to aim for.

Guaranteed income sounds impossibly expensive, but everywhere it has been tried – dozens of places, it has worked spectacularly. For one thing, every dollar spent saves three in less supervision of beneficiaries (eg. Police and court services, pointless workshops, training sessions and reports on everyone all the time). For another, the poor don’t drink away the income; they hang onto it dearly, measuring it out only as needed for the biggest impact. Poverty is not an attitude; it is a shortage of cash.

Two hundred years ago, we worked 70 hour weeks with no days off. And we were miserable. Today, we can be miserable with 40 hours weeks, two days off and 2-5 weeks’ vacation. Soon, we must face the reality of 15 hour weeks, because artificial intelligence will pick up where automated looms, assembly lines and robots have left off. We can massage it into a Utopia, or let it destroy our fabric. Our choice, but we need to start acting now.

Borders prevent development and trade. Mexicans used to return from the USA at the rate of 85%. Now they have to stay put. Finding new markets or even just work is enlarged with a larger territory. Artificially compartmentalizing everyone is stultifying. Economically, politically, and socially. Passports and visas – a totally artificial construct recently invented, benefitting no one.

Bregman doesn’t get into the self-imposed need for growth, though he does criticize the concepts of GNP/GDP. He says governing by numbers is the last resort of a country that no longer knows what it wants, a country with no vision of utopia.

He ends with sound advice for the Left: stop caving to right wing dogma. You have access to dramatic facts. Use them. There are gigantic, proven solutions waiting to be implemented if only someone would sponsor them. He points out that the accepted issues of the day, like voting by women, same sex marriage and abolition of slavery were outrageously radical and completely unacceptable just a few years ago. So be impossible and have a thick skin.

David Wineberg
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LibraryThing member fizzypops
A work that challenges you to critically examine the status quo, and your part in it. Bregman's bold ideas about the feasibility of a better society and a brighter future made me feel more positive and optimistic, but at the same time, depressed about the state of the world today. He finishes with
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a bright, uplifting 'manifesto' for bringing Utopia to life. Above all, challenge the status quo, believe in the possible, and never stop projecting the change you want to see in your world.

This world needs healing, and these elegant and compassionate ideals are a path toward a happier tomorrow. This book gave me hope.
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LibraryThing member cookbooknic
very thought provoking
LibraryThing member ericlee
I admit to being a bit of a latecomer to this party, having only discovered Rutger Bregman following his extraordinary non-interview on Fox News recently. This is his best-selling book laying out the case for a number of reforms, some quite moderate (like universal basic income, which even Richard
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Nixon advocated) and others far more radical (abolishing borders between countries). These are pretty much all good ideas, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them utopian. And also, for some strange reason, he's not mentioned some of the great experiments in social change including the independent Georgian republic of 1918-21, or the kibbutz movement in Israel. Well worth the read.
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LibraryThing member swmproblems
Went through 3 of the books main points (universal basic income, 15-hour workweek, and open borders) and how all of these things would contribute to overall growth for people worldwide (and not just economic growth) and the elimination of extreme poverty.
LibraryThing member Paul_S
It's all quite sound but kept me asking: so what? Not the manual it sells itself as on cover.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
3.5 stars

People with a basic income. No stings attached money for poor people. 15 hour workweek. These are some of the things suggested by the author to make life better for all. There are studies to back him up and, though we have been conditioned to think differently, it does not cost more to
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just give poor people money to do with as they will and they don’t (the vast majority) spend it on drugs or alcohol. In fact, for the most part, they do use it to better their lives in an ongoing way.

These are just some of the things the author talks about. Of course, I already agree with much of this, but there are economic reasons, too – reasons we wouldn’t immediately think.
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Physical description

336 p.; 7.8 inches


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