”The Optimism of the Intellect: Erik Olin Wright’s Real Utopias Project” Palgrave Encyclopaedia of the Possible

When radical critics of capitalism become desperate for empirical models that embody their aspirations, wishful thinking can triumph over sober assessments. The complementary danger is cynicism; there is great cachet among intellectuals in debunking naïve enthusiasm. What is needed, then, are accounts of empirical cases that are neither gullible nor cynical, but try to fully recognize the complexity and dilemmas as well as the real potentials of practical efforts at social empowerment. – Erik Olin Wright, Envisioning Real Utopias (2010, p. 151)

In a powerful passage, one of the world’s leading literary critics in the past century, Edward W. Said wrote that “[t]he intellectual’s representations—what he or she represents and how those ideas are represented to an audience—are always tied to and ought to remain an organic part of an ongoing experience in society: of the poor, the disadvantaged, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the powerless.” (1996, p. 113). But only a few embrace and…

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