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A philosophical perspective on new utopias

by Richard Meckien - published Apr 30, 2014 06:00 PM - - last modified Apr 30, 2014 06:00 PM

To analyze the current possibility of promoting unprecedented improvement in the quality of human life, as well as the consequences to realize this potential, is the goal of the new research group whose creation was approved by IEA-USP’s Board on April 4. The group is coordinated by philosopher Renato Janine Ribeiro, professor at USP’s Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) and member of the Board.

From a philosophical point of view, the group will explore utopias aimed at building a world centered on leisure, free of scarcity and where work is not the most important aspect in daily life. It will also discuss the emergence of a more libertarian society, characterized by ease of changing identity, belief, profession, sexual orientation and nationality as well as breaking social ties and creating more free and flexible new ones.

The group will initially focus on eight themes of approach: the revolution of inventions, machines and computers, the extinction of scarcity, the end of history, violence in a world without misery, consumerism and conformism, the difference between happiness and pleasure, utopias and its principles, and harm reduction.


According to the group’s research project, technoscientific advances constitute a watershed in the realization of utopian scenarios as they make it possible to satisfy desires that used to be repressed by several limitations and reach the stage of happiness in which one can "extract the maximum of personal satisfaction from minimal external stimuli." Furthermore, the development of science and technology makes the increase of productivity and the reduce of workload possible from the technical or material point of view.

The prospect of producing more by working less raises a number of issues to be discussed by the group: the possibility to have more time for leisure than to work, the emergence of more malleable identities, which would not be based on occupation, the elimination of the deficiencies that marked the course of humanity, the weakening of social bonds and the liquidity of relationships, and the end of history - or, as the research project punctuates, the end of a story driven by economy and scarcity.

But, as highlighted by the project, to turn the new utopias into reality finds two aspects as obstacles: the need to contain consumerism behind the need to produce and work harder, and the continuity of violence, as this would not disappear even with the end of scarcity, given the longing to have what others have or want, inherent in human nature.


The group will start its activities with a core of five researchers, including the coordinator. The expansion in the number of members will be gradual, as external lecturers get interested in becoming members. Among these guests, anthropologist Massimo Canevacci, visiting professor at the IEA-USP, and philosopher Olgária Matos, professor at FFLCH-USP and coordinator of IEA-USP’s research group on Humanities and the Contemporary World (also newly created), have already been contacted.

The idea is that the group meets every 45 days during the academic semesters, with a minimum of six meetings per year. Open to all interested parties and with the participation of external researchers, these meetings will be focused on the development of theoretical issues and the debate about them in practical terms. The group's proposal also includes internal meetings, participation in congresses, conferences and publications, such as articles, books and blogs.

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