"Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must now decide which path we want to take. How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?" 

(Greta Thunberg: XR Rally 2019)

Welcome to the About page...

Here you will find a brief explanation for our name, Real Utopia, and for how this captures the approach to organising that we take; A short account of what we mean by a Foundation; An overview of Participatory Society - its history, tradition, what is covered under theory, vision and strategy, etc. In addition to reading these, please also take a look at our We Have a Dream! and Is Real Utopia for You? statements. If you have any questions about any of the content on this page then please contact us. 

Real Utopia:

 

The opposite of utopia is hell on earth. Leading scientists warn that we are currently facing an existential crisis of unprecedented proportions. Clearly, we are closer to hell than to heaven.

 

The need for serious popular organising for radical-progressive social transformation has never been more urgent and utopian vision can inform such efforts. Much of the Left, however, tends to reject the development of vision on the grounds that it is either impractical (romantic ideas of perfection) or inherently authoritarian (dogmatic blueprints of how things must be). 

Being authoritarian or impractical are good reasons to reject vision. However, the Left's typical position on vision is problematic for at least two reasons. First, developing and utilising vision does not have to be impractical or authoritarian. There are ways of undertaking this task that take these concerns into account. Second, having no vision debilitates efforts at organising. Having no real understanding of what we are trying to build means that we are unable to lay solid foundations for the future today.

 

The Left’s tendency to neglect vision also generates a problem focused culture. Most of what the Left discusses constitutes analysis of what is wrong in the world. Being essentially negative, this focus tends to foster a psychology of cynicism and even hopelessness. In contrast, developing and utilising good vision has the potential to generate a solution focused culture. This essentially positive orientation fosters a psychology of optimism and empowerment. 

 

Vision, therefore, can be both practical and liberating. We present Participatory Society as an example of this - a Real Utopia! 

The Foundation:

 

We use the term Foundation in the sense that a builder might use it - i.e as a solid basis for further construction. This site has been set up to facilitate the establishment of a Participatory Society Network, which we see as that foundation. To assist in the development and growth of our Network, we have also set up a number of Real Utopia Teams - each focusing on a different aspect of organising.

 

Our general objectives are laid out in our Mission Statement. Following our position on strategy (see our brief overview of Participatory Society below) our initial focus is on consciousness raising and commitment building. As interest grows and support increases, however, we intend to go beyond this initial focus and incorporate contestation and construction into our efforts. 

Participatory Society:

 

Introduction

This brief overview has been put together for people who are interested in Participatory Society but have no prior knowledge of this body of work. It contains brief statements on various aspects of the topic, giving a general picture of what this project is about. This will allow you to begin to put the Foundation for a Participatory Society into its broader historical and ideological context. This introduction also contains links which lead to additional information.

 

Basics

In very basic terms, Participatory Society can be thought of as an alternative way of organising society. It is a truly inclusive society - free from racism, sexism, classism and authoritarianism. It is a society made-up of systems designed to perpetuate international peace and environmental sustainability. The transition from the current world-system to a Participatory Society would constitute a radical-progressive revolution. 

 

History

As a body of work, Participatory Society has been under development for over 40 years. In one sense it is an outgrowth of the radical politics of the 1960’s and 70’s (as we shall see, however, it belongs to a rich and much longer tradition). During that time large numbers of people were beginning to question the authority of the establishment. Institutionalised racism and sexism came under attack along with other forms of social discrimination. The logic of war (in particular in Vietnam) also came into question and was strongly opposed. This was the milieu out of which Participatory Society emerged. However, it is also important to point out that, as a body of work, Participatory Society has been informed not only by an analysis of the establishment but also by a radical critique of the left. 

 

Tradition

Although the more immediate roots of Participatory Society can be traced back to the radical politics of the 60s and 70s it is important to understand that this body of work also belongs to a much longer and richer tradition. That tradition is usually referred to as left-libertarianism. We can find expressions of left-libertarianism throughout the whole of human history. However, it’s probably more meaningful to describe left-libertarianism (as Chomsky tends to) as an historical tendency that can be traced back to Classical liberalism with more recent expressions in aspects of Marxism (council communism) and anarchism (anarcho-syndicalism). Sometimes this tendency is also referred to as libertarian socialism. That said, although Participatory Society is very much part of this tradition, it is also the case that it developed out of a critical analysis of left-libertarianism. In that sense we can think of Participatory Society not only as an alternative to rightwing politics but also to the ideologies of liberalism, marxism and anarchism. 

 

Contributions

Anyone who is familiar with its history and current practice of the Left will know that there are a number of internal tensions within it. For example, there is an ongoing tension between reformists and revolutionaries as well as between authoritarian and libertarian tendencies. There is also confusion over a number of other important issues. Given that the source of social power for the left is solidarity, these tensions, and the divisions they create, disempower the left. It follows, therefore, that addressing these tensions is of utmost importance. 

 

The motivation behind the development of Participatory Society can be understood as an attempt to address internal tensions and confusion. The desire is to conceptualise a way of organising that maximises solidarity as a means of empowering the left. To that end, Participatory Society is based on a number of important contributions to leftwing politics, all of which have important implications for organising. These include: 

 

  • Recognising the importance of treating each social sphere as of equal value. 

  • Highlighting the importance of vision.

  • Clarifying class analysis.

 

Aspects 

Participatory Society is made up of three related parts. They are:

 

  1. Theory

  2. Vision

  3. Strategy 

 

Theory lays the foundation for thinking about Vision and Strategy. It established a conceptual framework for thinking about social dynamics and historical continuity and change. Theory focuses on questions such as:

 

  • How do we most effectively understand society and history for the purpose of winning a better world? 

  • How is society organised and why does it need changing?

  • What are society’s key defining features?

  • As citizens who grow up and function in society, what are our personal and group attributes?

  • How do different aspects of our society affect us?

  • How do we affect different aspects of our society?

  • Why do some things change? Why do other things stay unchanged? When does what changes, change? 

 

Vision is all about answering the question: What kind of society do we want to live in? It tells us what winning would look like. Clearly this is future oriented. Nevertheless, there are a number of important implications for the present. They are: 

 

  • Countering cynicism and generating and sustaining motivation.

  • Informing strategy, guiding practice and orienting our choices to collectively get somewhere desirable.

  • To better understand the past and the present. 

 

Strategy is everything! Without strategy, Theory and Vision are just intellectual exercises. Strategy is about getting from one situation to another. Although informed by shared vision, strategy needs to be flexible as situations on the ground vary, not only from one place to the next but also over time. Nevertheless, four broad aspects of organising strategically can be identified. This is what we call our “4 C’s”. They are:

 

  1. Consciousness raising

  2. Commitment building

  3. Contestation

  4. Construction 

 

Each of these four parts are necessary for victory. The first feeds the second, third and fourth. Likewise, the fourth builds on the third, second and first. They are all mutually dependent and of equal value. However, the centrality of any one of these four aspects can vary over time. Initially, for example, consciousness raising (C1) and commitment building (C2) are the most important as there can be no serious contestation of the established order (C3) or construction of new institutions and alternative social systems (C4) without sufficient consciousness raising and commitment building first being in place. 

 

Conclusion

This brief introduction traces the immediate historical origins of Participatory Society to the radical politics of the 60’s and 70’s but also locates this body of work within the much longer and rich tradition of left-libertarianism. Key aspects of the contributions made to this tradition are also highlighted. This brief introduction, however, is not presented here as a substitute for the actual body of work. To start to get a fuller understanding of Participatory Society - its significance and potential - explore the content on our  Information  page. 

Mission Statement: 

  • To raise awareness of Participatory Theory, Vision and Strategy as a new and effective way of thinking about and organising for radical-progressive social transformation. 

  • To lay the foundations for a participatory society through the establishment of an international network of activists committed to advocating and organising for a participatory society. 

  • To raise money to fund events, research, media projects and grassroots organising and activities.