Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis

Benjamin Kunkel. Verso (Random, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-781-68327-9
Novelist turned public-intellectual Kunkel (Indecision) ventures into the realm of political non-fiction, voicing his dissatisfactions and hopes for the Left in the United States. Recounting his personal intellectual journey from vaguely leftist malcontent to explicitly Marxist thinker, Kunkel laments a lack of coherent critique of the present. In response, he tackles some of the left's most complex scholarship. From Boris Groys to Slavoj Zizek, Kunkel translates tricky questions of economics, culture, and politics into easy-to-understand prose that distil the problems not only with American capitalism, but capitalism in general: the tendency to shift social wealth away from the masses and towards the rich, and to run itself into crisis. While aiming to develop a critique of later-day America to clear the way for a second book dedicated to the question of a truly just society, this book is not without its concrete suggestions. Where the relatively recent obsession with inflation represents the interests of only the financial sector, Kunkel proposes a redefinition of "full employment" that would have significant political implications. Rather than being understood as an acceptable rate of unemployment, he argues for a definition that includes jobs for all who want them, a living wage, a productive role for government, and the understanding that not all inflation is destructive. All told, this book demonstrates Kunkel's command both of the written word and some of our most pressing problems, as well as their possible solutions. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/17/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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