Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Future We Want: A Review of the Essay Collection Edited by Dirty Commies Sunkara and Leonard



I think I have a legitimate question here.

If Sunkara is editing (with Leonard) a collection of essays about how we need to build socialism, how is this book different from a Jacobin issue? Is it that they didn’t get the art team out?

But seriously, this is a fine addition to the series of Sunkara-edited and contributed collections. It is a collection of several essays united by the common thread of the common, on how we make the world better for everyone. My main issue with it was that the essays were siloed – here’s women’s issues, here’s race issues, and the thread isn’t really pulled together until the final essay, a coda by Sunkara and Peter Frase. Not to say that this isn’t important – but I wanted to see a more organic whole.

What was interesting was the common thread between the siloed topics that might not have been intentional. Several of the authors argued for the necessity of a universal basic income. This seems to be the struggle of our time under the context of capitalism that may have some legs as the robots rise and the millennials who feel the Bern start coming into more power and the olds start dying off. The real question is if this is a reformist move, or will take us to the promised land of worker control of the means of production and the gradual withering away of the state, or if it is an end point that if accomplished will foreclose other discussions on reform.

Two important essays close the book before the coda. Tim Barker makes a clear argument against the too common celebration of the small business, which is important because it shows that the capitalistic system is the problem no matter how large the scale. I hadn’t thought of the subject much at all, and it nicely disturbed some preconceived notions of mine. Then the last essay is Seth Ackerman prodding on the idea that the socialist future is not the end, but a beginning, an important reminder that we are not reaching for the end of history on our terms, but instead a new beginning.