Utopia for Realists

How We Can Build the Ideal World


By Rutger Bregman

Formats and Prices




$22.99 CAD


  1. Trade Paperback $17.99 $22.99 CAD
  2. ebook $9.99 $11.99 CAD
  3. Audiobook Download (Unabridged)

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 27, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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.

“A more politically radical Malcolm Gladwell.” — New York Times

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 about universal basic income seemed impossibly radical when he delivered it in 2014. A quarter of a million views later, the subject of that video is being seriously considered by leading economists and government leaders the world over. It’s just one of the many utopian ideas that Bregman proves is possible today.

Utopia for Realists is one of those rare books that takes you by surprise and challenges what you think can happen. From a Canadian city that once completely eradicated poverty, to Richard Nixon’s near implementation of a basic income for millions of Americans, Bregman takes us on a journey through history, and beyond the traditional left-right divides, as he champions ideas whose time have come.

Every progressive milestone of civilization — from the end of slavery to the beginning of democracy — was once considered a utopian fantasy. Bregman’s book, both challenging and bracing, demonstrates that new utopian ideas, like the elimination of poverty and the creation of the fifteen-hour workweek, can become a reality in our lifetime. Being unrealistic and unreasonable can in fact make the impossible inevitable, and it is the only way to build the ideal world.



The Return of Utopia

Let's start with a little history lesson: In the past, everything was worse.

For roughly 99% of the world's history, 99% of humanity was poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly. As recently as the seventeenth century, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–62) described life as one giant vale of tears. "Humanity is great," he wrote, "because it knows itself to be wretched." In Britain, fellow philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) concurred that human life was basically "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

But in the last 200 years, all of that has changed. In just a fraction of the time that our species has clocked on this planet, billions of us are suddenly rich, well nourished, clean, safe, smart, healthy, and occasionally even beautiful. Where 84% of the world's population still lived in extreme poverty in 1820, by 1981 that percentage had dropped to 44%, and now, just a few decades later, it is under 10%.1

If this trend holds, the extreme poverty that has been an abiding feature of life will soon be eradicated for good. Even those we still call poor will enjoy an abundance unprecedented in world history. In the country where I live, the Netherlands, a homeless person receiving public assistance today has more to spend than the average Dutch person in 1950, and four times more than people in Holland's glorious Golden Age, when the country still ruled the seven seas.2

For centuries, time all but stood still. Obviously, there was plenty to fill the history books, but life wasn't exactly getting better. If you were to put an Italian peasant from 1300 in a time machine and drop him in 1870s Tuscany he wouldn't notice much of a difference.

Historians estimate that the average annual income in Italy around the year 1300 was roughly $1,600. Some 600 years later–after Columbus, Galileo, Newton, the Scientific Revolution, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, the invention of gunpowder, printing, and the steam engine–it was… still $1,600.3 Six hundred years of civilization, and the average Italian was pretty much where he'd always been.

It was not until about 1880, right around the time Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison patented his lightbulb, Carl Benz was tinkering with his first car, and Josephine Cochrane was ruminating on what may just be the most brilliant idea ever–the dish-washer–that our Italian peasant got swept up in the march of progress. And what a wild ride it has been. The past two centuries have seen explosive growth in both population and prosperity worldwide. Per capita income is now ten times what it was in 1850. The average Italian is fifteen times as wealthy as in 1880. And the global economy? It is now 250 times what it was before the Industrial Revolution–when nearly everyone, everywhere was still poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly.

FIGURE 1 Two Centuries of Stupendous Progress

This is a diagram that takes a moment to absorb. Each circle represents a country. The bigger the circle, the bigger the population. The bottom section shows countries in the year 1800; the top shows them in 2012. In 1800, life expectancy in even the richest countries (e.g. the Netherlands, the United States) still fell short of that in the country with the lowest health rating (Sierra Leone) in 2012. In other words: in 1800, all countries were poor in both wealth and health, whereas today, even sub-Saharan Africa outperforms the most affluent countries of 1800 (despite the fact that incomes in the Congo have hardly changed in the last 200 years). Indeed, ever more countries are arriving in the "Land of Plenty," at the top right of the diagram, where the average income now tops $20,000 and life expectancy is over 75.

Source: Gapminder.org

The Medieval Utopia

The past was certainly a harsh place, and so it's only logical that people dreamed of a day when things would be better.

One of the most vivid dreams was the land of milk and honey known as "Cockaigne." To get there you first had to eat your way through three miles of rice pudding. But it was worth the effort, because on arriving in Cockaigne you found yourself in a land where the rivers ran with wine, roast geese flew overhead, pancakes grew on trees, and hot pies and pastries rained from the skies. Farmer, craftsman, cleric–all were equal and kicked back together in the sun.

In Cockaigne, the Land of Plenty, people never argued. Instead, they partied, they danced, they drank, and they slept around.

"To the medieval mind," the Dutch historian Herman Pleij writes, "modern-day western Europe comes pretty close to a bona fide Cockaigne. You have fast food available 24/7, climate control, free love, workless income, and plastic surgery to prolong youth."4 These days, there are more people suffering from obesity worldwide than from hunger.5 In Western Europe, the murder rate is forty times lower, on average, than in the Middle Ages, and if you have the right passport, you're assured an impressive social safety net.6

Maybe that's also our biggest problem: Today, the old medieval dream of the utopia is running on empty. Sure, we could manage a little more consumption, a little more security–but the adverse effects in the form of pollution, obesity, and Big Brother are looming ever larger. For the medieval dreamer, the Land of Plenty was a fantasy paradise–"An escape from earthly suffering," in the words of Herman Pleij. But if we were to ask that Italian farmer back in 1300 to describe our modern world, his first thought would doubtless be of Cockaigne.

In fact, we are living in an age of biblical prophecies come true. What would have seemed miraculous in the Middle Ages is now commonplace: the blind restored to sight, cripples who can walk, and the dead returned to life. Take the Argus II, a brain implant that restores a measure of sight to people with genetic eye conditions. Or the Rewalk, a set of robotic legs that enables paraplegics to walk again. Or the Rheobatrachus, a species of frog that became extinct in 1983 but, thanks to Australian scientists, has quite literally been brought back to life using old DNA. The Tasmanian tiger is next on this research team's wish list, whose work is part of the larger "Lazarus Project" (named for the New Testament story of a death deferred).

Meanwhile, science fiction is becoming science fact. The first driverless cars are already taking to the roads. Even now, 3D printers are rolling out entire embryonic cell structures, and people with chips implanted in their brains are operating robotic arms with their minds. Another factoid: Since 1980, the price of one watt of solar energy has plummeted 99%–and that's not a typo. If we're lucky, 3D printers and solar panels may yet turn Karl Marx's ideal (all means of production controlled by the masses) into a reality, all without requiring a bloody revolution.

For a long time, the Land of Plenty was reserved for a small elite in the wealthy West. Those days are over. Since China has opened itself to capitalism, 700 million Chinese have been lifted out of extreme poverty.7 Africa, too, is fast shedding its reputation for economic devastation; the continent is now home to six of the world's ten fastest-growing economies.8 By the year 2013, six billion of the globe's seven billion inhabitants owned a cell phone. (By way of comparison, just 4.5 billion had a toilet.)9 And between 1994 and 2014, the number of people with Internet access worldwide leaped from 0.4% to 40.4%.10

Also in terms of health–maybe the greatest promise of the Land of Plenty–modern progress has trumped the wildest imaginings of our ancestors. Whereas wealthy countries have to content themselves with the weekly addition of another weekend to the average lifetime, Africa is gaining four days a week.11 Worldwide, life expectancy grew from sixty-four years in 1990 to seventy in 201212–more than double what it was in 1900.

Fewer people are going hungry, too. In our Land of Plenty we might not be able to snatch cooked geese from the air, but the number of people suffering from malnutrition has shrunk by more than a third since 1990. The share of the world population that survives on fewer than 2,000 calories a day has dropped from 51% in 1965 to 3% in 2005.13 More than 2.1 billion people finally got access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2012. In the same period, the number of children with stunted growth went down by a third, child mortality fell an incredible 41%, and maternal deaths were cut in half.

And what about disease? History's number-one mass murderer, the dreaded smallpox, has been completely wiped out. Polio has all but disappeared, claiming 99% fewer victims in 2013 than in 1988. Meanwhile, more and more children are getting immunized against once common diseases. The worldwide vaccination rate for measles, for example, has jumped from 16% in 1980 to 85% today, while the number of deaths has been cut by more than three-quarters between 2000 and 2014. Since 1990, the TB mortality rate has dropped by nearly half. Since 2000, the number of people dying from malaria has been reduced by a quarter, and so has the number of AIDS deaths since 2005.

Some figures seem almost too good to be true. For example, fifty years ago, one in five children died before reaching their fifth birthday. Today? One in twenty. In 1836, the richest man in the world, one Nathan Meyer Rothschild, died due to a simple lack of antibiotics. In recent decades, dirt-cheap vaccines against measles, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, and polio have saved more lives each year than world peace would have saved in the twentieth century.14

Obviously, there are still plenty of diseases to go–cancer, for one–but we're making progress even on that front. In 2013, the prestigious journal Science reported on the discovery of a way to harness the immune system to battle tumors, hailing it as the biggest scientific break-through of the year. That same year saw the first successful attempt to clone human stem cells, a promising development in the treatment of mitochondrial diseases, including one form of diabetes.

Some scientists even contend that the first person who will live to celebrate their 1,000th birthday has already been born.15

FIGURE 2 The Victory of Vaccines

Source: World Health Organization

All the while, we're only getting smarter. In 1962, as many as 41% of kids didn't go to school, as opposed to under 10% today.16 In most countries, the average IQ has gone up another three to five points every ten years, thanks chiefly to improved nutrition and education. Maybe this also explains how we've become so much more civilized, with the past decade rating as the most peaceful in all of world history. According to the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, the number of war casualties per year has plummeted 90% since 1946. The incidence of murder, robbery, and other forms of criminality is decreasing, too.

"The rich world is seeing less and less crime," the Economist reported not long ago. "There are still criminals, but there are ever fewer of them and they are getting older."17

FIGURE 3 War Has Been On the Decline

Source: Peace Research Institute Oslo

A Bleak Paradise

Welcome, in other words, to the Land of Plenty.

To the good life, where almost everyone is rich, safe, and healthy. Where there's only one thing we lack: a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Because, after all, you can't really improve on paradise. Back in 1989, the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama already noted that we had arrived in an era where life has been reduced to "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands."18

Notching up our purchasing power another percentage point, or shaving a couple off our carbon emissions; perhaps a new gadget–that's about the extent of our vision. We live in an era of wealth and overabundance, but how bleak it is. There is "neither art nor philosophy," Fukuyama says. All that's left is the "perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history."

According to Oscar Wilde, upon reaching the Land of Plenty, we should once more fix our gaze on the farthest horizon and rehoist the sails. "Progress is the realization of Utopias," he wrote. But the far horizon remains blank. The Land of Plenty is shrouded in fog. Precisely when we should be shouldering the historic task of investing this rich, safe, and healthy existence with meaning, we've buried utopia instead. There's no new dream to replace it because we can't imagine a better world than the one we've got. In fact, most people in wealthy countries believe children will actually be worse off than their parents.19

But the real crisis of our times, of my generation, is not that we don't have it good, or even that we might be worse off later on.

No, the real crisis is that we can't come up with anything better.

The Blueprint

This book isn't an attempt to predict the future.

It's an attempt to unlock the future. To fling open the windows of our minds. Of course, utopias always say more about the time in which they were imagined than about what's actually in store. The utopian Land of Plenty tells us all about what life was like in the Middle Ages. Grim. Or rather, that the lives of almost everyone almost everywhere have almost always been grim. After all, every culture has its own variation on the Land of Plenty.20

Simple desires beget simple utopias. If you're hungry, you dream of a lavish banquet. If you're cold, you dream of a toasty fire. Faced with mounting infirmities, you dream of eternal youth. All of these desires are reflected in the old utopias, conceived when life was still nasty, brutish, and short. "The earth produced nothing fearful, no diseases," fantasized the Greek poet Telecides in the fifth century B.C., and if anything was needed, it would simply appear. "Every creek bed flowed with wine… Fish would come into your house, grill themselves, and then lie down on your table."21

But before we go any farther, let's first distinguish between two forms of utopian thought.22 The first is the most familiar, the utopia of the blueprint. Great thinkers like Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt and even an entire current of philosophy, postmodernism, have sought to upend this type of utopia. They largely succeeded; theirs is still the last word on the blueprinted paradise.

Instead of abstract ideals, blueprints consist of immutable rules that tolerate no dissension. The Italian poet Tommaso Campanella's The City of the Sun (1602) offers a good example. In his utopia, or rather dystopia, individual ownership is strictly prohibited, everybody is obliged to love everybody else, and fighting is punishable by death. Private life is controlled by the state, procreation included. For instance, smart people can only go to bed with stupid people, and fat ones with skinny ones. Every effort is focused on forging a favorable median. What's more, every person is monitored by a vast network of informants. If someone commits a transgression, the sinner is verbally browbeaten until they are convinced of their own wickedness and freely submit to being stoned by the rest.

With the benefit of hindsight, anyone reading Campanella's book today will see chilling hints of fascism, Stalinism, and genocide.

The Return of Utopia

There is, however, another avenue of utopian thought, one that is all but forgotten. If the blueprint is a high-resolution photo, then this utopia is just a vague outline. It offers not solutions but guideposts. Instead of forcing us into a strait-jacket, it inspires us to change. And it understands that, as Voltaire put it, the perfect is the enemy of the good. As one American philosopher has remarked, "any serious utopian thinker will be made uncomfortable by the very idea of the blueprint."23

It was in this spirit that the British philosopher Thomas More literally wrote the book on utopia (and coined the term). Rather than a blueprint to be ruthlessly applied, his utopia was, more than anything, an indictment of a grasping aristocracy that demanded ever more luxury as common people lived in extreme poverty.

More understood that utopia is dangerous when taken too seriously. "One needs to be able to believe passionately and also be able to see the absurdity of one's own beliefs and laugh at them," observes philosopher and leading utopia expert Lyman Tower Sargent. Like humor and satire, utopias throw open the windows of the mind. And that's vital. As people and societies get progressively older they become accustomed to the status quo, in which liberty can become a prison, and the truth can become lies. 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 dependent on the country where you just happen to have been born?24

Utopias offer no ready-made answers, let alone solutions. But they do ask the right questions.

The Destruction of the Grand Narrative

Today, sadly enough, our dreams can't even begin before we are woken up. According to the cliché, dreams have a way of turning into nightmares. Utopias are a breeding ground for discord, violence, even genocide. Utopias ultimately become dystopias; in fact, a utopia is a dystopia. "Human progress is a myth," goes another cliché. And yet we ourselves have managed to build the medieval paradise.

True, history is full of horrifying forms of utopianism–fascism, communism, Nazism–just as every religion has also spawned fanatical sects. But if one religious radical incites violence, should we automatically write off the whole religion? So why write off the utopianism? Should we simply stop dreaming of a better world altogether?

No, of course not. But that's precisely what is happening. Optimism and pessimism have become synonymous with consumer confidence or the lack thereof. Radical ideas about a different world have become almost literally unthinkable. The expectations of what we as a society can achieve have been dramatically eroded, leaving us with the cold, hard truth that without utopia, all that remains is a technocracy. Politics has been watered down to problem management. Voters swing back and forth not because the parties are so different, but because it's barely possible to tell them apart, and what now separates right from left is a percentage point or two on the income tax rate.25

We see it in journalism, which portrays politics as a game in which the stakes are not ideals, but careers. We see it in academia, where everybody is too busy writing to read, too busy publishing to debate. In fact, the twenty-first-century university resembles nothing so much as a factory, as do our hospitals, schools, and TV networks. What counts is achieving targets. Whether it's the growth of the economy, audience shares, publications–slowly but surely, quality is being replaced by quantity.

And driving it all is a force sometimes called "liberalism," an ideology that has been all but hollowed out. What's important now is to "just be yourself " and "do your thing." Freedom may be our highest ideal, but ours has become an empty freedom. Our fear of moralizing in any form has made morality a taboo in the public debate. The public arena should be "neutral," after all–yet never before has it been so paternalistic. On every street corner we're baited to booze, binge, borrow, buy, toil, stress, and swindle. Whatever we may tell ourselves about freedom of speech, our values are suspiciously close to those touted by precisely the companies that can pay for prime-time advertising.26 If a political party or a religious sect had even a fraction of the influence that the advertising industry has on us and our children, we'd be up in arms. But because it's the market, we remain "neutral."27

The only thing left for government to do is patch up life in the present. If you're not following the blueprint of a docile, content citizen, the powers that be are happy to whip you into shape. Their tools of choice? Control, surveillance, and repression.

Meanwhile, the welfare state has increasingly shifted its focus from the causes of our discontent to the symptoms. We go to a doctor when we're sick, a therapist when we're sad, a dietitian when we're overweight, prison when we're convicted, and a job coach when we're out of work. All these services cost vast sums of money, but with little to show for it. In the U.S., where the cost of healthcare is the highest on the planet, the life expectancy for many is actually going down.

All the while, the market and commercial interests are enjoying free rein. The food industry supplies us with cheap garbage loaded with salt, sugar, and fat, putting us on the fast track to the doctor and dietitian. Advancing technologies are laying waste to ever more jobs, sending us back again to the job coach. And the ad industry encourages us to spend money we don't have on junk we don't need in order to impress people we can't stand.28 Then we can go cry on our therapist's shoulder.

That's the dystopia we are living in today.

The Pampered Generation

It is not–I can't emphasize this enough–that we don't have it good. Far from it. If anything, kids today are struggling under the burden of too much pampering. According to Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University who has conducted detailed research into the attitudes of young adults now and in the past, there has been a sharp rise in self-esteem since the 1980s. The younger generation considers itself smarter, more responsible, and more attractive than ever.

"It's a generation in which every kid has been told, 'You can be anything you want. You're special,'" explains Twenge.29 We've been brought up on a steady diet of narcissism, but as soon as we're released into the great big world of unlimited opportunity, more and more of us crash and burn. The world, it turns out, is cold and harsh, rife with competition and unemployment. It's not a Disneyland where you can wish upon a star and see all your dreams come true, but a rat race in which you have no one but yourself to blame if you don't make the grade.

Not surprisingly, that narcissism conceals an ocean of uncertainty. Twenge also discovered that we have all become a lot more fearful over the last decades. Comparing 269 studies conducted between 1952 and 1993, she concluded that the average child living in early 1990s North America was more anxious than psychiatric patients in the early 1950s.30 According to the World Health Organization, depression has even become the biggest health problem among teens and will be the number-one cause of illness worldwide by 2030.31

It's a vicious circle. Never before have so many young adults been seeing a psychiatrist. Never before have there been so many early career burnouts. And we're popping antidepressants like never before. Time and again, we blame collective problems like unemployment, dissatisfaction, and depression on the individual. If success is a choice, then so is failure. Lost your job? You should have worked harder. Sick? You must not be leading a healthy lifestyle. Unhappy? Take a pill.

In the 1950s, only 12% of young adults agreed with the statement "I'm a very special person." Today 80% do,32 when the fact is, we're all becoming more and more alike. We all read the same bestsellers, watch the same blockbusters, and sport the same sneakers. Where our grandparents still toed the lines imposed by family, church, and country, we're hemmed in by the media, marketing, and a paternalistic state. Yet even as we become more and more alike, we're well past the era of the big collectives. Membership of churches and labor unions has taken a tumble, and the traditional dividing line between right and left holds little meaning any more. All we care about is "resolving problems," as though politics could be outsourced to management consultants.

Sure, there are some who try to revive the old faith in progress. Is it any wonder that the cultural archetype of my generation is the Nerd, whose apps and gadgets symbolize the hope of economic growth? "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," a former math whiz at Facebook recently lamented.33

Lest there be any misunderstanding: It is capitalism that opened the gates to the Land of Plenty, but capitalism alone cannot sustain it. Progress has become synonymous with economic prosperity, but the twenty-first century will challenge us to find other ways of boosting our quality of life. And while young people in the West have largely come of age in an era of apolitical technocracy, we will have to return to politics again to find a new utopia.

In that sense, I'm heartened by our dissatisfaction, because dissatisfaction is a world away from indifference. The widespread nostalgia, the yearning for a past that never really was, suggests that we still have ideals, even if we have buried them alive.

True progress begins with something no knowledge economy can produce: wisdom about what it means to live well. We have to do what great thinkers like John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, and John Maynard Keynes were already advocating 100 years ago: to "value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful."34 We have to direct our minds to the future. To stop consuming our own discontent through polls and the relentlessly bad-news media. To consider alternatives and form new collectives. To transcend this confining zeitgeist and recognize our shared idealism.

Maybe then we'll also be able to again look beyond ourselves and out at the world. There we'll see that good old progress is still marching along on its merry way. We'll see that we live in a marvelous age, a time of diminishing hunger and war and of surging prosperity and life expectancies. But we'll also see just how much there still is left for us–the richest 10%, 5%, or 1%–to do.

The Blueprint

It's time to return to utopian thinking.

We need a new lodestar, a new map of the world that once again includes a distant, uncharted continent–"Utopia." By this I don't mean the rigid blueprints that utopian fanatics try to shove down our throats with their theocracies or their five-year plans–they only subordinate real people to fervent dreams. Consider this: The word utopia means both "good place" and "no place." What we need are alternative horizons that spark the imagination. And I do mean horizons in the plural; conflicting utopias are the lifeblood of democracy, after all.


  • "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

On Sale
Mar 27, 2018
Page Count
336 pages
Back Bay Books

Rutger Bregman

About the Author

Rutger Bregman, a historian and writer at The Correspondent, is one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers. His last book, Utopia for Realists, which was translated into thirty-two languages, is a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Holland.

Learn more about this author