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Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis (Jacobin) Paperback – March 11, 2014


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Product Details

  • Series: Jacobin
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781683271
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781683279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Benjamin Kunkel has pursued a lonely and taxing crash course in Marxist thought, the results of which, set forth here, are nimble, clear, and brave. He dedicates the book to anyone who can use it, which I’ll take a step further: it’s for anyone who cares about historical necessity,
the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.” Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

"Playful and unfailingly lucid...the book is one of the most enjoyable pieces of Marxist criticism in many years." The Nation

“It’s wonderful to see Benjamin Kunkel turn his considerable talents from the business of novelwriting to these political essays—models of the genre, with plenty to offer to both newcomers to and veterans of radical thought.” Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer

"From Boris Groys to Slavoj Zizek, Kunkel translates tricky questions of economics, culture, and politics into easy-to-understand prose that distil the problems not only with American capitalism, but capitalism in general" Publishers Weekly

“Benjamin Kunkel, aside from having mastered the voice of bemused neuroticism in Indecision, has one of the most interesting minds around.” The Millions

“Those looking for alternatives, explanations, and a critical map of where Leftist thought stands in our current neoliberal age will find Utopia or Bust a must-read.” Mike Konczal, finance commentator and Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

About the Author

Benjamin Kunkel is the bestselling author of Indecision and a co-founder of n+1. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books.

Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Zach Levenson on March 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, let me say that I really wanted to like this book. It's a deceptive volume: it's just repackaged review essays from the London Review of Books and n+1. There's literally no new material save for a brief intro! I have to say, even if I disagreed quite strongly with his reading of Brenner, the summary of the argument is quite useful, as is his overview of Harvey's project. But some of the subsequent material is just corny. I really can't get past Kunkel's use of bad drug metaphors to explain Jameson. Above all, his refrain that Marxism can no longer chart a political path forward, but simply provides a useful analysis of the present, is a bit odd. Every single author covered here is an academic. Marxist or non, why in the world should we look to academics for a political program?

Finally, Kunkel's evasion of women in this book is just gross. When he finally mentions one in the bibliographic essay that concludes the book -- Federici -- he gives her two sentences before he goes on to compare her to Lewis Mumford (!), about whom he proceeds to gush, providing a block quote, etc. The two sentences she does get also misrepresent her argument. Actually, there's also two sentences on Ellen Meiksins Wood, but you get my point.

I have to say, too, that for someone who is apparently considered the next big Marxist thing, I was really bummed to see his sneaking of Keynesianism into underconsumptionist readings of Brenner and (to a lesser extent) Harvey. This tendency reappears in the final essay as well. Minsky, Kalecki, &co. as our saviors?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas on April 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is not "absolute nonsense" as one reviewer said. Yes, it is not new in the sense that each essay is published elsewhere. Yes, it is engaging with Marxist thought at some remove. But as an introduction to some important writers in the field, this book is concise and offers a roadmap for future study in these areas.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Long on May 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kunkel deals more with the historical setting and background of each author rather than concisely summarizing their viewpoint. This is not to say it is completely devoid of economical theory, rather, the meat of it is an exposition for which books you should go read and why.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ratt on May 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
As the author admits in the introduction, this work is not an attempt to "make an original contribution to Marxist, or what you might call Marxish, thought". It is merely an introduction to those preeminent thinkers of our day. That being said, it is quite possibly the most accessible, uplifting, and most of all eloquent (the prose really sings out at you) introduction that anyone could have written.

As introductions to other people's work often do, it does suffer here and there from inaccuracies, slightly odd interpretations, and minor, idiosyncratic misjudgments. Most glaringly, Kunkel does not have a good grasp of the total sum of Slavoj Zizek's work as a contribution to contemporary leftism, and his critique is too focused on Zizek's most recently published, short political pamphlets. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it does not do justice to Zizek's invaluable influence as a hyperactive and charismatic public intellectual.

But this is only a quibble. This book is such a joy to read, for novices and the more well-read alike, that I fail to see how any leftist could read it and not be glad that it exists.
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