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Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  18,770 ratings  ·  1,993 reviews
Universal basic income. A 15-hour workweek. Open borders. Does it sound too good to be true? One of Europe's leading young thinkers shows how we can build an ideal world today.

After working all day at jobs we often dislike, we buy things we don't need. Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian, reminds us it needn't be this way-and in some places it isn't.

Rutger Bregman's TED Talk
...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 14th 2014)
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Thomas The science in this book makes good sense, but it remains quite abstract. So working out some of the theories he lays down in practice would take some…moreThe science in this book makes good sense, but it remains quite abstract. So working out some of the theories he lays down in practice would take some translation and it wouldn't happen overnight.

It's all in the title, though. He lays out a number of 'utopian' ideals, things we could strive towards as society if we wanted to. These are ideals that may seem far-fetched now, but just as people used to think the idea of women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery, and the welfare state were far-fetched before they happened.(less)
Rutger Actually, yes! This has everything to do with the history of the book. The first version was published in 2014, in Dutch. In 2016, my (very small) Dut…moreActually, yes! This has everything to do with the history of the book. The first version was published in 2014, in Dutch. In 2016, my (very small) Dutch publisher decided to translate it into English. This meant I had the chance to update the book - so I included a new chapter (the one on bankers and garbage collectors) and removed another one.

Then my Dutch publisher put the English edition on Amazon Create Space. We sold a few thousand copies, but the book wasn't a big success. I had already lost hope that the book would reach more readers, until my Dutch publisher proposed to contact a literary agent.

This was the week before the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. Everything happened pretty quickly - two weeks later my book was sold to 10 countries. Now it's sold to 30 :)

So obviously, I had another chance to update the book. I included a new epilogue and (on the advice of my brilliant American and British editors) changed the order of the chapters, and added a few paragraphs here and there.

So there's the answer to your question - there are actually 3 versions of this book, and I much prefer the last one! (less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
”A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias.”---Oscar Wilde.

Rutger Bregman, the Dutch historian, first came to my attention when recently he got into a tiff with Tucker Carlson. The footage and audio was leaked, and though I wasn’t surprised to hear Carlson get upset
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Mark
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a painful book to read during the first week of Trump's administration. I swear every time I finished a chapter, a new policy would be announced that completely moved the needle of social progress in the other direction. Solving poverty with a universal basic income? Nope, here's a Secretary of Labor who thinks the minimum wage is already too high. Reform the banking system so it's not one of the largest drivers of the economy? Let me introduce you to the newest Goldman Sachs exec to run a ...more
Mario the lone bookwolf (semi reviewing hiatus )
If you like progressive, pro welfare state, social security, in a nutshell, the Nordic model praising nonfiction with hard facts and undeniable, logical argumentations, some of them the first time presented to a larger audience, this is your new favorite.

After having read Klein, Chomsky, and Ziegler, who are all primarily talking about the problems and showing some ways out of the dilemma, I find this new approach towards less ranting and more solutions very positive. What it differentiates fro
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Adam
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Capitalist or communist, it all boils down to a pointless distinction between two types of poor, and to a major misconception that we almost managed to dispel some 40 years ago – the fallacy that a life without poverty is a privilege you have to work for, rather than a right we all deserve.


A breezy read with ideas that are backed up by genuinely interesting statistics and anecdotes.

Argues that we can better society and move towards utopia by implementing three ideas: a 15 hour workweek, a univer
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Yemi Adesanya
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Radical ideas, at first glance, but all put forward in this book aren't unreasonable, neither are they unrealistic. They are logically presented and supported with facts and tons of research and history.

It is an enlightening read, and I wish politicians and policy makers would read books like this. If only to widen their imagination and deepen thoughts and debates on possible courses of action on the problem plaguing the world.

Highly recommended.
·Karen·
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Something I hear not infrequently at the moment is a prediction that this crisis is going to really, really make a difference. The world will never be the same again. At that point in the conversation - and there are damned few conversations to be had right now, but nevertheless, at that point I tend to go a bit quiet. Because what I'm thinking is 'BULLSHIT'. (Which I'm too polite to say). 'Cos what I'm thinking is, actually, people have really, really short memories and those who haven't been l ...more
Peter
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really wanted to like this. I'm a big fan of The Correspondent's journalism, and believe that basic income is an important idea whose time might have come. It was certainly interesting to learn more about the history, and the few studies that have been undertaken. Also fascinating to learn more about the history and failings of GDP as a measure.

However the attempts to persuade seemed full of holes and contradictions. One minute the author is complaining about how technological progress has slowe
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Pamela
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I respond to utopian thinking the way any other moderately-informed liberal does: "Well, wouldn't that be nice o_O" But the more I read of Bregman's book, the more my resistance melted away. Why aren't we setting our sights higher than adding a dollar to the minimum wage and opposing Trump's wall? Hell, you wanna address unemployment as a result of automation? Why not support a universal basic income and a shorter work week! You'd also take a couple of steps towards gender equality to boot! By t ...more
Bianca
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
The modern creed – or worse, the belief that there’s nothing left to believe in – makes us blind to the shortsightedness and injustice that still surround us every day. To give a few examples: Why have we been working harder and harder since the 1980s despite being richer than ever? Why are millions of people still living in poverty when we are more than rich enough to put an end to it once and for all? And why is more than 60% of your income depends on the country where you just happen to ha ...more
Adrian Hon
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A reasonably good summary of the history of universal basic income and the drive to a shorter working week, although if you've read a few long essays on those topics it's unlikely you'll learn much.

Unfortunately the book is spoiled by a few things. Firstly, while I get that it has a point of view that it's conveying (one that I agree with!), I could've done with more opposing arguments, if only to arm myself in future.

Secondly, one of the arguments is for open borders, which the author suggests
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Katia N
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was probably misguided as I thought this book would deal predominantly with the idea of a basic income. Specifically, i was intrested in the arguments pro and against it and, preferably, an analysis how it is possible to implement, the impact of automation and which steps might be taken right now. But this book is much broader in scope, and at the same time, pretty shallow. The book is more about the current state of the world with inequality, too much work for some and no for the others, the ...more
Cristina
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it.

I'm going to share some of the excerpts I liked.

1. Whether you look at the incidents of depression, burnout, drug abuse, high dropout rates, obesity, unhappy childhoods, low election turnout or social and political distrusts, the evidence points to the same culprit every time - inequality. But hold on -- what should it matter if some people are filthy rich if even those who are very poor are better off than the kings of centuries ago? A lot. Because it’s all about relative poverty. How
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Gabrielle
My father once told me that he felt I was very pessimistic, to which I replied that I was too much of a realist to be an optimist. Don’t get me wrong, when stuff is good, I am more than happy to celebrate it, but I’m also not the type to pretend everything is great when things are objectively terrible. The title “Utopia for Realists” grabbed me right away, because I’m pretty sure that if you ask any so-called realist, you’ll find they want nothing more than to believe the world could be a better ...more
Laura Noggle
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, nonfiction
Extremely interesting, and something I've been wondering about/reading up on for years.

Hopefully not just a pipe dream—but I have little faith in humanity at this point.
Kevin
How far can a Western Social Democrat go? This book reaches (runs into?) its limits…

The Good:
--Top marks for accessibility; engaging writing-style especially for Western audiences, like that of David Graeber and Matt Taibbi.
--Dutch historian Bregman joins Development economist Ha-Joon Chang as leading Social Democrats; highlights from this book:

1) UBI, automation, reducing work, and bullshit jobs: the core of the book, with engaging historical narrative and case studies. Also, useful chapter br
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Nancy
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have lost our vision, Rutger Bregman writes, mired in old paradigms and blind to the possibilities we should be imagining. We could be realizing the world predicted by 20th c thinkers.

Subtitled "How We Can Build The Ideal World," Utopia for Realists is an international best seller, first published in the Netherlands where it ignited a debate and inspired a movement.

Bregman begins by reminding us of how recently life was a "vale of tears," "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as philoso
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Matthew Quann
Though its fairly rare for me to read nonfiction--you'll usually find me digesting these books in the audio versions--this book caught my eye during a Kindle sale. I've been trying my best to broaden my understanding of not only the problems facing the world, but reasonable solutions. Utopia for Realists proposes three concepts (universal basic income, a 15-hour work week, and open borders) that often come up during political debates for which I had little opinion prior to reading.

Fortunately, I
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Mehrsa
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Makes a solid case for universal basic income using some recent studies as well as some misunderstood older studies. I think I would recommend Graeber or even Doughnut economics for the theory behind some of the concepts in here, but this is a quick read and a great primer on why we have too many bullshit jobs and why poverty is not a moral failing. I'd say read the others first and then come here, but this is a nice start too. Others to read: Scarcity, David Graeber, Picketty, etc...
Conor Ahern
I ended up really liking this book. It explores a lot of ideas that we reflexively reject, likely because they go against common sense. Ideas like "just give poor people cash" seem not only politically infeasible, but unwise. And sadly, our politics is dictated by soundbites and conventional wisdom, and we wonder why we only dig ourselves deeper into wealth inequality and dissatisfaction with government at all levels.

This book explores concepts like universal basic income, open borders, and cash
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Ray
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, nonfic
Is it hyperbolic to say that this book may change the world?

If you've already read about Universal Basic Income (UBI), or really anything by a good myth-busting economist which challenges our current era of capitalism, then Utopia for Realists may not teach you too much that you don't already know. Overall Rutger Bregman''s way is just to summarize some main big ideas into a readable paperback, and yet that is the whole point.

There are plenty of graphs which will convince the reader that incom
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Kamyar malzoom
Dec 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ready-to-read
I'm getting my masters in finance and going to get my Ph.D. in finance too, so not an economist, but I know a great deal about economics (studied tons of materials both in academic settings and for fun).

This book is NOT realistic AT ALL, the numbers just simply don't add up. If you know anything about macroeconomics and theory of markets, the alternative proposed in this book is just laughable. This guy is a journalist and "historian" (although not really a historian) so it's acceptable that he
...more
Hari Ramachandran
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book for many reasons but the one thing that stood out was the fact that it made me alter my world view from pessimistic to hopeful, if not completely optimistic.
The author has proposed some radical ideas but has also provided a lot past research and evidence to support these ideas.
Terence M (Spring is in My Step!)
I am yet to listen to this audiobook. It has such an ugly cover I nearly didn't buy it, but it was an Audible "Daily Deal" for just $2.99 and I was particularly motivated by Jeffrey Keeten's review.
Andrew
Utopia for Realists: How we Can Build the Ideal World, by Rutger Bregman, is a fascinating book about the idea of Utopia in a modern, realistic context. Early concepts of Utopia revolved around basic needs; food falling from the sky, safety and health, and so on. Bregman says we are there already. Food is no longer scarce in most countries, and poverty rates and crime is down globally - to the lowest levels in history. Instead, many nations are grappling with other issues - overwork, obesity, la ...more
Tuncer Şengöz
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Stunning book on basic income, lesser working hours (and leisure), poverty and a world with no borders.

I underlines this paragraph: "Sadly, the underdog socialist has forgotten that the story of the left ought to be a narrative of hope and progress... The greatest sin of the academic left is that it has become fundamentally aristocratic, writing in bizarre jargon that makes simple matters dizzyingly complex. If you can't explain your ideal to a fairly intelligent twelve-year-old, after all, it'
...more
Maru Kun
Feb 20, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Great clip here where Rutger Bregman points out that Fox New's Tucker Carlson is "a millionaire funded by billionaires" and as a result gets called a "moron" and told to "f**k off" by Carlson simply for stating the obvious.

Very entertaining and well worth a watch. Strangely Fox News decided not to broadcast the clip but it was leaked anyway.

Historian who confronted Davos billionaires leaks Tucker Carlson rant
...more
David
Sep 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A poorly argued book about ideas that I agree with. Light on analysis and critical thinking, heavy on speculation, storytelling and context-free statistics.

Could have been an infographic.
Adam
The book of our times, a must read. A few counterintuitive examples (which I like and enjoy) that changed the way I think about work and finance.

n.b: if you take one thing from this book or review let it be this- 'Read the Epilogue'. It's good!

In an ideal world we'd have this utopia (obviously!) but due to the narrowmindedness of low-information voters and their politicians (whom they think are looking out for them! Ha!) it's highly doubtful we'll see UBI succeed, let alone implemented. If it w
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Justine
This book blew me AWAY!!

And I'm really not joking here. It changed my way of thinking: I didn't even know I was thinking this way until Rutger Bregman put his finger on the problem and showed me the way (okay, it sounds preachy told like this, but it's not!)

I wanted to read this book because I wanted to believe there is more to this world than just the actual situation. I live in France, and it's not that glorious, be it personal or national. When I stumbled upon Utopia for Realists, I told my
...more
Radiantflux
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
33rd book for 2017.

With an engaging writing style, Bregman puts forward arguments for three big ideas to guide progressive politics into the future: A basic wage; less, more meaningful work overall; and open borders.

I found the arguments for a basic wage most compelling, with some interesting history (who ever knew that Nixon would have got a basic wage passed in 1968 if not for the damn Democrats!? One has to wonder what would have happened to the US and the rise of Trump had he been successfu
...more
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Rutger Bregman is a Dutch historian, author and journalist. He studied at Utrecht University and the University of California, Los Angeles and is known for popularizing topics related to social and economic innovation measures and their history through, among others, universal basic income and shorter work weeks.

Rutger Bregman is a journalist at The Correspondent, and one of Europe's most prominen
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From independent presses, to tales in translation, to critical darlings and new debut novels, these books (all published in the U.S. this year)...
38 likes · 3 comments
“The great milestones of civilization always have the whiff of utopia about them at first. According to renowned sociologist Albert Hirschman, utopias are initially attacked on three grounds: futility (it’s not possible), danger (the risks are too great), and perversity (it will degenerate into dystopia). But Hirschman also wrote that almost as soon as a utopia becomes a reality, it often comes to be seen as utterly commonplace. Not so very long ago, democracy still seemed a glorious utopia. Many a great mind, from the philosopher Plato (427–347 B.C.) to the statesman Edmund Burke (1729–97), warned that democracy was futile (the masses were too foolish to handle it), dangerous (majority rule would be akin to playing with fire), and perverse (the “general interest” would soon be corrupted by the interests of some crafty general or other). Compare this with the arguments against basic income. It’s supposedly futile because we can’t pay for it, dangerous because people would quit working, and perverse because ultimately a minority would end up having to toil harder to support the majority.” 27 likes
“Poverty is fundamentally about a lack of cash. It’s not about stupidity,” stresses” 24 likes
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