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Will bosses still hound you in utopia?
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Will bosses still hound you in utopia?

Elle Griffin on imagining utopian fiction amid doomerism
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“Utopian” tends to be leveled as a bit of an insult, often to imply that people or ideas (Antiworkers, for example) are naive and unserious. Yet, have you ever noticed that those on the other end (pundits forecasting doomsday, apocalyptic futures) are never treated with the same skepticism?  Apparently, this wasn’t always the case, and

is trying to bring back a little bit of that quaint optimism.  After all, imagination is for creating reality, not just escaping it. 

Author of the very popular substack The Elysian, Griffin writes both fiction and non-fiction speculating on what utopian futures could look like in the realm of economy, religion, and work—among many other areas.   She expresses some views I agree with and some that trigger me, but in both cases her ideas are always very thoughtful, clear, and fair.

Her latest novels "Obscurity" and "Oblivion" are available to read serially, and her essays have also been featured in Esquire, Forbes, Every, and The Muse. 

In a bit over an hour, we discuss:

  • Why her work focuses on envisioning positive futures rather than dystopian pessimism and why she considers open borders an essential ingredient for utopia.  

  • The future of work in a utopian society—emphasizing vocational work and community contributions—with her current personal lifestyle of remote work and autonomy serving as an example.

  • A totally-not-dystopian thought exercise of whether we’d rather live under the thumb of governments or corporations, as power increasingly shifts from one to the other and firms provide benefits traditionally offered by the state.  

  • Why she believes a “capitalist utopia” is possible within a vision of capitalism centered around worker cooperatives.

  • Whether human nature can also become utopian enough for truly egalitarian governance, or if we’ll always need hierarchies to protect against negative behavior—something she debated in correspondence with anarchist thinker

    .

  • How writing fiction and non-fiction help her think about the same topic in different ways.  

Note: the critique of futurism that I referred to but couldn’t remember is a Spanish-language book called Futuro Ancestral.  

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