In lockdown 2 work at Sarum College continues with online teaching and preparing for the coming months of recovery but I am determined to catch up on some reading.
Do you have a pile of books by your bedside that you have dipped into, put down and picked up again? Perhaps you are a one at a time person – focused and determined not to allow the distraction of an ‘odd’ chapter get in the way of being a completer/finisher? We read for different reasons and in a multiplicity of ways. This book caught my attention during the last lockdown and remained unread….. but not for much longer!
So : How best to get to Uptopia? We reconstruct modern society so that we can be both more productive and more suitable. For Bregman this is based on three basic ideas:
a. universal and unconditional basic income paid to everybody
b. a short working week of fifteen hours
c. worldwide open borderswith the free movement of citizens between all states
This requires quite a leap of imagination and a readiness to think outside of most of the boxes that we are constrained within. It is a fundamental challenge to the liberal left and indeed many of the embedded attachments to inequality that we hang onto. Bregman aims high in an attempt to show us how how human wellbeing can only be assured by everyone receiving a universal basic income. Is it true that we humans believe that reward should follow proportionate effort ?
There is a clinical dissection of much of the purposeless work thrown up by modern capitalism. Too many of today’s jobs are ephemera, creating little or no value. Abolishing it would make little difference. “Work”, in terms of executing a craft or attempting to make the world a better place, is becoming the preserve of too few. How much better if we recognised the fact and opted for leisure? Alternatively, and much more realistically, how about creating more purposed companies and more purposed work? As I read the text I kept pinching myself for a reality check !
The utopia does not stop there – open borders and being welcoming to strangers is a great statement of common humanity – and that immigration is an economic benefit. So open them and allow communities to flourish ! Inject moral purpose. Give us better and more rewarding work.
This is a rollercoaster of a read. For those who know that we we have and how we live just isn’t working for all; for those addicted to work and thereby inequality. For the unimaginative who are stuck Bregman invites us to ponder and to dream. So go on start dreaming and you’ll find in these pages plenty of stardust !