Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism

How the utopian tradition offers answers to today’s environmental crises
23 February 2023 on-line public meeting

Speaker: Professor Gregory Claeys

Our talk will be based on Greg’s latest book, Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism. (Princeton University Press, 2022), which examines the ways the expansive history of utopian thought, from its origins in ancient Sparta and ideas of the Golden Age through to today’s thinkers, can offer moral and imaginative guidance in the face of environmental catastrophe. Claeys argues that the utopian tradition, which has been critical of conspicuous consumption and luxurious indulgence, might light a path to a society that emphasizes equality, sociability, and sustainability.

About the speaker
Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London.
He specialises in the history of radical, socialist and reform movements and ideas.
His numerous books include Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought (Unwin Hyman, 1989); The French Revolution Debate in Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), Imperial Sceptics: British Critics of Empire, 1850–1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Searching for Utopia: the History of an Idea (Thames Hudson, 2011), Mill and Paternalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Marx and Marxism (Penguin Books, 2018).

His latest book is a wide-ranging consideration of utopian literature, social theory, and intentional communities. He defends a realist definition of utopia, focusing on ideas of sociability and belonging as central to utopian narratives. He surveys the development of these themes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before examining twentieth- and twenty-first-century debates about alternatives to consumerism. Prof Claeys contends that the current global warming limit of  1.5C (2.7F) will result in cataclysm if there is no further reduction in the cap. In response, he offers a radical Green New Deal, which combines ideas from the theory of sociability with proposals to withdraw from fossil fuels and cease reliance on unsustainable commodities.