"The Idea of Utopia" is a free ten-week class offered as part of BPL's Library School series taught by Norman Finkelstein.
Humanity is facing unprecedented crises. Whether it be the prospect of climate catastrophe, massive unemployment and underemployment, or endless war, unless we think in big and innovative ways, a dim future awaits us. However, Bernie Sanders’s candidacy as well as Donald Trump’s victory suggest that Americans are ready for radical change. Although Sanders lost, he came much closer to winning than anyone could have predicted a year ago, and the political Revolution he inspired is bringing more and more people into the streets every day. Meanwhile, Trump was elected even though Wall Street and the billionaire class opposed him, political elites in the Republican and Democratic party opposed him, and the corporate media opposed him. Even if the outcome might be depressing, the fact is, Trump’s was the first truly democratic election in modern American history: it was the people not the Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum Establishment that decided the winner. The challenge now is to galvanize the American people with a vision of the future that is both practical and sweeping.
The sociologist Max Weber famously said, “All historical experience confirms the truth that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible.” In this 10-week class, we will explore the possibilities of the impossible by reading Thomas More’s UTOPIA, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s anti-utopian NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. It will not be a lecture class but, instead, will be based on a close, interactive reading and analysis of salient passages in the texts. The class will hopefully walk away with the belief that a better future is possible, but also cautious about solutions that might create more harm than good.
Students in the course will receive copies of the texts. Registration is limited to 20 students.
Class will meet in the Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room on the 2nd floor on the following Wednesdays:
March 8th, March 15th, March 22nd, March 29th (Room TBD), April 5th, April 12th, April 19th, April 26th (Room TBD), May 3rd (Room TBD), and May 10th (Room TBD).
Norman Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein's main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.