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Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World Hardcover – March 14, 2017

4.7 out of 5 stars 1,448 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


"A more politically radical Malcolm Gladwell...To the extent that bookish economic historians can rampage, Bregman is on one...He combines a detailed approach to economic policy with a utopian vision of a better future...Bregman argues that it is only by dreaming about what seems to be unachievable that society can make good things possible."―Patrick Kingsley, New York Times

"Both a fun read and a breath of fresh air to anyone who lived through the ghastly experience of last year's presidential election season . . .
Utopia for Realists argues, with humor and sympathy, that we've all suffered from forgetting how to dream of a better world....What's so interesting about modern America is our hostility to the mere idea of trying to create an easier and happier life. We're a country that was once rich with social experimentation . . . Now we don't really even try, and mostly just scream at each other on the Internet. That doesn't seem like it will get us there. Maybe free money and a three-hour workday won't, either, but it sure seems like it would be more fun to try."
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

"Convincing . . . Entertaining and reasoned . . . Bregman's book makes for enjoyable reading, and it is packed with colorful factual asides . . .
Utopia for Realists should make for good conversation at the next dinner party."―Benjamin Cunningham, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Provocative and ambitious...The book is lively, well-researched, and full of unlikely pieces of history."―
Tim Harford , Financial Times

Utopia for Realists is fantastic. A quick glance turned into hours of riveting reading. Very seldom does a book change the way you think about some of most intractable problems of society, and of life. This one did. Read this book."―Sydney Finkelstein, director of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

"If you're bored with hackneyed debates and decades-old right-wing and left-wing clichés, you may enjoy the bold thinking, fresh ideas, lively prose, and evidence-based arguments in
Utopia for Realists."
Steven Pinker, New York Times bestselling author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

"Bregman speaks with impressive authority . . . His solutions are quite simple and staunchly set against current trends . . . He has assembled a wealth of empirical evidence to make his case. Better than that, though, Utopia for Realists is not a dry, statistical analysis-although he doesn't shy from solid data-but a book written with verve, wit, and imagination. The effect is charmingly persuasive, even when you can't quite believe what you're reading . . . Listen out for Rutger Bregman. He has a big future shaping the future."―
Andrew Anthony, The Guardian UK

"Rutger Bregman is part of a new generation of thinkers who are suggesting exciting alternatives to the orthodoxies of the last forty years. In this surprising, accessible, and often counterintuitive book, Bregman explores some brilliant but simple ideas for making a better world."―
Brian Eno

"A spirited and practical manifesto for improving the odds of making a heaven on Earth."

"[Bregman] engagingly examines basic income schemes... entertaining and intriguing.... These are appealing notions, presented here in a breezy, TED talk-like style."

Publishers Weekly

"This book is brilliant. Everyone should read it. Bregman shows us we've been looking at the world inside out. Turned right way out, we suddenly see fundamentally new ways forward. If we can get enough people to read this book, the world will start to become a better place."

Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

"Learning from history and from up-to-date social science can shatter crippling illusions. It can turn allegedly utopian proposals into plain common sense. It can enable us to face the future with unprecedented enthusiasm. To see how, read this superbly written, upbeat, insightful book."

Philippe van Parijs, co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network

"This is a Read Now book. Nothing dystopian about this one: a young (he's 29), practical set of ideas for how the next generation can do better."―
Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

An important book, a wonderfully readable breath of fresh air, a window thrown open to a better future. As politicians and economists are asking how to increase productivity, ensure full employment, and downsize government, Bregman asks: What actually makes life worth living and how can we get there? He combines deep research with wit, challenging us to think anew about how we want to live and who we want to be. Required reading."

Philipp Blom, author of The Vertigo Years and A Wicked Company

''It's a wonderful, well-written book, easily the crispest and least dry explanation of the research and history behind basic income as an idea I've seen in print."―
Dylan Matthews, Vox

About the Author

Rutger Bregman is a journalist at The Correspondent, and one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers. He has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics. His last book, Utopia for Realists, was a New York Times paperback bestseller, and his History of Progress was awarded the Belgian Liberales prize for best nonfiction book of 2013. Bregman has twice been nominated for the European Press Prize.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company (March 14, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316471895
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316471893
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.2 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.4 x 1.35 x 9.6 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 1,448 ratings

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Rutger Bregman is one of Europe’s most prominent young thinkers. The 27-year-old historian and author has published four books on history, philosophy, and economics. His History of Progress was awarded the Belgian Liberales prize for best nonfiction book of 2013. The Dutch edition of Utopia for Realists became a national bestseller and sparked a basic income movement that soon made international headlines. Bregman has twice been nominated for the prestigious European Press Prize for his journalism work at The Correspondent. His work has been featured in The Washington Post and on the BBC.

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
1,448 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on March 7, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars Goals for the Left
By David Wineberg on March 14, 2017
Utopia For Realists is a Left manifesto. It explores three policies guaranteed to enrage right wingers: a guaranteed income, a shorter work week and open borders. Rutger Bregman does it with splendid panache. The book is a totally positive, upbeat read – most unusual for a defensive, defeatist Left. The studies and the facts are all there. Deny them at your peril, he seems to say.

To appreciate and enjoy Utopia For Realists, you must buy into the initial premise that our problem is we can’t come up with anything better than the way things are now. We have run out of goals. We have run out of ideas. We are all about cutting back, servicing less, and ignoring various elephants in the room, like automation overloading us with leisure time. Western society is so wealthy in historic terms that we don’t realize we have reached Utopia. Even at our worst, we are infinitely better off than our forebears. What we need now is a new Utopia to aim for.

Guaranteed income sounds impossibly expensive, but everywhere it has been tried – dozens of places - it has worked spectacularly. For one thing, every dollar spent saves three in less supervision of beneficiaries (eg. Police and court services, pointless workshops, training sessions and reports on everyone all the time). For another, the poor don’t drink away the income; they hang onto it dearly, measuring it out only as needed for the biggest impact. Poverty is not an attitude; it is a shortage of cash.

Two hundred years ago, we worked 70 hour weeks with no days off. And we were miserable. Today, we can be miserable with 40 hour weeks, two days off and 2-5 weeks’ vacation. Soon, we must face the reality of 15 hour weeks, because artificial intelligence will pick up where automated looms, assembly lines and robots have left off. We can massage it into a Utopia, or let it destroy our fabric. Our choice, but we need to start acting now.

Borders prevent development and trade. Mexicans used to return from the USA at the rate of 85%. Now they have to stay put. Finding new markets or even just work is enlarged with a larger territory. Artificially compartmentalizing everyone is stultifying. Economically, politically, and socially. Passports and visas – a totally artificial construct recently invented, benefitting no one.

Bregman doesn’t get into the self-imposed need for growth, though he does criticize the concepts of GNP/GDP. He says governing by numbers is the last resort of a country that no longer knows what it wants, a country with no vision of utopia.

He ends with sound advice for the Left: stop caving to right wing dogma. You have access to dramatic facts. Use them. There are gigantic, proven solutions waiting to be implemented if only someone would sponsor them. He points out that the accepted issues of the day, like voting by women, same sex marriage and abolition of slavery were outrageously radical and completely unacceptable just a few years ago. So be impossible and have a thick skin.

David Wineberg
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Reviewed in the United States on March 4, 2020
Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2019
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars hopeful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 22, 2016
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but don't expect a plan.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 30, 2016
8 people found this helpful
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Ayda Bond
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 27, 2016
Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful addition to the post neo-liberalism debate.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 18, 2016
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 8, 2016