Realistic Utopias versus Dystopic Realities – Oxford University, Taylor Lecture, 12/2/2019

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Oxford University, kindly invited me to deliver the 2019 Taylor Lecture on 12th February 2019. In my book was addressed to my daughter regarding the economy I tried to offer her a simple, though not simplistic, account on how capitalism works and how it fails. Critics, correctly, pointed out that the book’s criticisms of capitalism (couched in parables borrowed from literature, theatre and science fiction) never really answered the pressing question: “But what’s the alternative? Could social and economic relations be substantially different given human nature and really existing technologies?” In this lecture I shall speak both to the difficulties in answering this question and to the importance of trying to answer it.

Any answer, I will argue, involves writing a modern Utopia. But the trick is to write it (a) without resorting to magical thinking, un-invented technologies or a view of humanity through rose-tinted glasses, while (b) never forgetting that our current (unbearable to most people) reality is defended by means of economic theories that are no more than exercises in vulgar science fiction. Utopian fiction, in other words, is unavoidable. The point is how effectively to expose the science fictions supporting an insupportable capitalism and juxtapose them against humanist science fictions of an alternative, realistic present.

Date: Tuesday 12 February 2019, 17:00 – 18:00
Venue: Main Hall, Taylor Institution, University of Oxford