The Real Utopias Project


pdf of book


pdf of book


pdf of book


pdf of book


pdf of book



Extended Overview, Publications, Havens Center RUP InformationDeepening Democracy Conference, Redesigning Distribution Conference, Pensions and the Control of Capital Conference, Future conferences, Gender Egalitarianism Conference, Other papers connected to the Real Utopias Project Envisioning Real Utopias (Verso, 2010)Discussions, lectures & Audio recordings around Envisioning Real Utopias


The Real Utopias Project, begun in 1991, explores a wide range of proposals and models for radical social change. The basic idea is to combine serious normative discussions of the underlying principles and rationales for different emancipatory visions with the analysis of pragmatic problems of institutional design. The project itself consists of a series of conferences sponsored periodically by the A. E, Havens Center at the University of Wisconsin. Each conference is built around some provocative, innovative manuscript dealing with some salient issue in radical social change. A group of scholars from around the world is then invited to write essays engaging the ideas of this manuscript. These essays are circulated among participants and discussed at the conference. After the conference the papers are revised in light of these discussions and the author(s) of the original manuscript write a concluding essay. The collection of papers is then published in the Real Utopias Project Series by Verso publishers, London.


As of 2018,  six books have been published in the series:

Associations and Democracy, by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers, with contributions by Paul Q. Hirst, Ellen Immergut, Ira Katznelson, Heinz Klug, Andrew Levine, Jane Mansbridge, Claus Offe,, Philippe Schmitter, Wolfgang Streeck, Andrew Szasz and Iris Young. Edited and introduced by Erik Olin Wright  (Volume I, Real Utopias Project Series, London: Verso, 1995)

Equal Shares: making market socialism work, by John Roemer, with contributions by Richard J. Arneson, Fred Block, Harry Brighouse, Michael Burawoy, Joshua Cohen, Nancy Folbre , Andrew Levine, Mieke Meurs, Louis Putterman, Joel Rogers, Debra Satz, Julius Sensat, William H. Simon, Frank Thompson, Thomas E. Weisskopf, Erik Olin Wright. Edited and introduced by Erik Olin Wright
(Volume II, Real Utopias Project Series, London: Verso, 1996)

Recasting Egalitarianism: New Rules for Accountability and Equity in Markets, States and Communities, by Sam Bowles and Herbert Gintis with contributions by Daniel M. Hausman, John E. Roemer, Erik Olin Wright, Karl Ove Moene, Michael Wallerstein, Peter Skott David M. Gordon, Harry Brighouse, Elaine McCrate, Andrew Levine, Paula England, Steven N. Durlauf, Ugo Pagano, Michael R. Carter, and Karla Hoff.  Edited and Introduced by Erik Olin Wright. (Volune III, Real Utopias Project Series, London: Verso, 1999)

Deepening Democracy: innovations in empowered participatory governance, by Archon Fung and Erik Olin Wright, with contributions by Rebecca Neaera Abers, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Joshua Cohen, Patrick Heller, Bradley C. Karkkainen, Rebecca S. Krantz, Jane Mansbridge, Joel Rogers, Craig W. Thomas, and T.M. Thomas Isaac. (Volume IV of the Real Utopias Project Series, London, Verso, 2003)

Redesigning Distribution: basic income and stakeholder grants as cornerstones of a more egalitarian capitalism, by Bruce Ackerman, Ann Alstott and Philippe van Parijs, with contributions by Barbara Bergmann, Irv Garfinkle, Chien-Chung Huang , Wendy Naidich, Julian LeGrand, Carole Pateman, Guy Standing, Stuart White, and Erik Olin Wright (Volume V of the Real Utopias Project Series, London: Verso, 2006)

Gender Equality: Transforming Family Divisions of Labor, By Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers,  with contributions by Barbara Bergmann, Johanna Brenner, Harry Brighouse, Scott Coltrane, Rosemary Crompton, Myra Marx Ferree,  Nancy Folbre, Heidi Hartman, Shireen Hassim, Lane Kenworthy,  Vicki Lovell, Cameron MacDonald, Peter McDonald, Ruth Milkman, Kimberly Morgan, Ann Orloff, Michael Shalev, Erik Olin Wright, Kathrin Zippel. Edited with a Preface by, Erik Olin Wright. (London and New York: Verso, 2009)

For information on these books,  consult the Verso Publishers website:

One additional book provides a general theroetical framework for thinking about real utopias and strategioes for transforming captialism:

Envisioning Real Utopias, by Erik Olin Wright (Verso, 2010)

pdf of Envisioning Real Utopias

Original papers from the Deepening Democracy conference

Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance, January, 2000.

This conference was a follow-up on an earlier Real Utopias Project conference on "Associations and Democratic Governance" held in 1992. Archon Fung and Erik Wright wrote an introductory essay for the conference, which elaborates a particular conception of participatory democracy called "empowered participatory governance" and then lays out an inventory of problems and questions which can be used to analyze real world cases of institutional  innovation in terms of this model. The conference itself was built around a number of on-going real-world experiments in participatory democracy that have been in place long enough for a serious discussion of their dilemmas and potentials. The introductory essay and the case studies have been revised for the book, Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance (Archon Fung and Erik Olin Wright, Verso, 2003).

The case study experiments and the original papers presented at the conference include:


Redesigning Distribution: Basic Income & Stakeholder Grants (2003)

Redesigning Redistribution: Universal Basic Income, Stakeholder Grants and other proposals

The first conference of the Real Utopias Project discussed the proposal for what is variously called citizen dividends, Basic income Grants, or unconditional guaranteed income. In the  years since that early conference there has been much debate and writing on this topic, especially in the context of discussions for the reform of the European welfare state. In this conference we revisited this issue and contrasted the basic income idea with other prominent proposals for redesigning redistribution, particularly the proposal by Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott for large stakeholder grants to be given to all citizens upon reaching the age of majority. The conference was held  in May, 2003. The book will appear in the summer of 2005.

Papers for Rethinking Redistribution conference


Pensions and the Control of Capital Accumulation.

Social Ownership of Capital: the use of pension funds for social control of capitalism

In the 1970s a proposal was floated in Sweden to use wage-earner funds under the control of unions as a device for increasing collective control over investments and accumulation. After the defeat of that proposal, the idea of using pension funds and other collectively controlled funds as a way of socially controlling capital has dropped off the agenda of the left. In this conference we will examine these kinds of proposals. Robin Blackburn is completing a comprehensive study of the history of the idea of using collective funds controlled by unions and other working class agencies in this way. This study will constitute the backdrop for the conference. 

Institutions to support Gender Egalitarianism in work and caregiving (Most Recent Conference, November 2006)

( Core manuscript by Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers, "Institutions for Gender Egalitarianism: Creating the Conditions for Egalitarian Dual Earner / Dual Caregiver Families"

This conference explores the problem of how to move towards the emancipatory goal of radical gender equality in the context of the practical realities and dilemmas faced by dual career families and caregiving labor, especially parenting. Can institutions be created which can underwrite a dual-earner-dual-carer pattern of work and family practices?

Three papers the provide background and ideas for this conference:

Gornick, Janet C., and Marcia K. Meyers. 2004.

“Welfare Regimes in Relation to Paid Work and Care.”

Chapter 3 in Janet Zollinger Giele and Elke Holst (eds.)

Changing Life Patterns in Western Industrial Societies.

Netherlands: Elsevier Science Press, 45-67.


Gornick, Janet C., and Marcia K. Meyers. 2004.

“Supporting a Dual-Earner / Dual-Carer Society: Lessons From Abroad.”

In Jody Heymann and Christopher Beem (eds.)

A Democracy that Works: The Public Dimensions of the Work and Family Debate.

New York: The New Press. (forthcoming)


Gornick, Janet C., and Marcia K. Meyers. 2004

"Work/Family Reconciliation Policies for the United States: Lessons from Abroad"

Revised Conference papers:



1. Legislature by Lot. Manuscript in preparation by John Gastil and Erik Olin Wright. Conference held September, 2017. Book to be published 2018.

2. Pathways to a cooperative market economy. This project is built around a series of international research workshops on different processes through which cooperatives are incubated, developed, and sustained. Two workshops have been held so far – in Barcelona (March, 2015) and in Buenos Aires (October 2015). Two more workshops are planned for 2016-2017: Johannesburg in July, 2016, and Italy, sometime in the first half of 2017. Project page:

2. Democratizing Finance. Manuscript in preparation by Fred Block and Robert Hockett. Project page: Conference: July, 2018.

4. Democarizing the Firm. Manuscript in preparation by Isabelle Ferreras.