17. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 5: Thomas More’s “Utopia”

17. The history and value of utopian thinking, part 5: Thomas More’s “Utopia”

 
 
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“If you believe that change is necessary, you may believe the change is necessary but not necessarily know what direction that change will go. But change is inevitable. We change all the time. Nature is changing and we have, you know, change is part of the response mechanisms is over with and so on. We need perhaps to think about educating our children for change rather than for stability.”

—big mike

Listen: iTunes, Spotify, Mixcloud | Transcript

In this episode:

00:00 Dispel any questions of anachronism, or linear progress—socialist ideas are ancient, and have presented themselves at other historical thresholds. How do historical changes change the way people think? What examples do we have to draw on to consider the interaction between a change in material conditions, and a change in thought?

05:24 What are the changes of his time that compelled Thomas More to write Utopia? What is the system of thought that More is coming out of? What material conditions are compelling More to write this critique?

11:28 How does the theme of private property show up in Utopia, and shift the way we think about democracy currently? What are the political and power implications of private property? How does this allow him to anticipate many problems of the coming capitalism?

22:03 What does education have to do with More’s vision? How and what was taught? How does this compare to the ways we educate today?

27:16 In a utopian society, what is the role of discontent? What is the role of discontent in our society today? How does capitalist culture want to redirect our discontent, resentment, or unhappiness?

29:56 How does the way capitalism treats discontent teach us to think about—or rather, antagonize—change? How do we deal (or not deal) with change in capitalist society? How do we educate to deal with change? How would a democratic socialist society organize change?

33:11 Shifting gears: what are the merits of localized change versus large-scale change? How has the barrier between local and global come apart in recent times, demanding large scale change? What does that have to do with the larger scale of political life, in the time of nation-states?

36:53 What does Bacon’s New Atlantis have to teach us about another kind of property, foundational to life in this country—intellectual property? How does knowledge production relate to capitalist exploitation? How do we in our sites of conventional knowledge production—schools and universities—reflect capitalist values?

Further Readings:

Thomas More, Utopia

Francis Bacon, New Atlantis

[on questions of change and education] adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy & Eli Meyerhoff, Beyond Education: Radical Studying for Another World

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