Erik Olin Wright smiling, curling grey-white hair and clear framed glasses.



Erik Olin Wright




The Real Utopias Project began in the early 1990s, galvanized by its leading force, Erik Olin Wright (and named by Joel Rogers during one of their weekly Sunday walks), in order to carefully explore institutional alternatives to the reigning capitalist order. As Erik once described it, “these alternatives (1) embody our deepest aspirations for a just and humane world—thus ‘utopia,’ and (2) can to a greater or lesser extent be built in the world as it is, prefiguring the world as it could be, and moving us in that direction, thus ‘real.’ The objective is to formulate visions for radical alternatives embodying the emancipatory values of democracy, equality, and solidarity that also specify realistic steps for solving existing problems.” 

The standard practice is for an author to produce an “anchor essay” which powerfully articulates a real utopian vision for a radical redesign of an important social institution. The anchor essay is then circulated among international leaders in the field. A small number of such experts (15-20) are invited to write responses to the anchor essay – expanding, developing, and critiquing it. This small group then meets for an intensive 2-3 day conference. Erik hosted the conferences with his usual mix of profound intellectual concentration and exuberant social warmth. 

Devastatingly, Erik passed away in January 2019. His passing left a hole in the lives of all who knew him: his family and friends, colleagues and generations of adoring students, and the international socialist movement of which he was a giant. His passing tore a hole in the sail of our vessel. We patch it up as best we can, but it can never be made whole. 

Before he passed, he asked Tom Malleson to take over as coordinator. The on-going work of the RUP is supported by an Advisory Committee and the Havens-Wright Center for Social Justice.