Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life after Consumerism

How the utopian tradition offers answers to today’s environmental crises


Published (US):
Sep 6, 2022
Published (UK):
Nov 1, 2022
5.5 x 8.5 in.
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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 behavior. 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 1.5C (2.7F) 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.

Awards and Recognition

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year