How Utopian thinking can help us to understand and address inequality.
Wednesday 9 December
6pm in MB 644
2009 is the centenary of Eleanor Rathbone's election to Liverpool City Council, and the eightieth anniversary of her election to Parliament. Rathbone was, among other things, committed to the ending of child poverty, and pioneered the payment of Family Allowances to mothers. 2010 is the European Year of combating poverty and social exclusion, and the date by which the Blair government promised to halve the number of children in poverty in the UK, with a view to abolishing child poverty entirely by 2020. This target will not be met. One of the reasons for this is the failure of social policy to address what society would have to look like in order for child poverty to be abolished. This involves a more holistic and systemic approach to social policy - a kind of speculative sociology which might be termed 'utopian'.
Indeed, Rathbone herself wrote a pamphlet entitled 'utopia calling'. The lecture will explain what is meant by 'utopia as method'. It will argue that addressing child poverty demands attention to inequality more widely, and especially to gender inequalities, opening out into a re-evaluation of forms of work, of production and of distribution that are more far-reaching (and quite different in kind) from policies currently in vogue. In the context of both economic and ecological crises, it will argue that such utopian thinking is both fruitful and necessary, while what is truly impossible is to continue as we are.
Book a place for this free lecture.
About Professor Ruth Levitas
Ruth Levitas is Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, co-founder and former Chair of Utopian Studies Society Europe, and Vice-Chair of the William Morris Society. Her research interests are in utopian social thought; political and social theory; and contemporary politics and policy, especially poverty, inequality and social exclusion.
Her published work includes The Ideology of the New Right (1986); The Concept of Utopia (1990, second edition forthcoming 2009); Interpreting Official Statistics (ed. with Will Guy, 1996); The Inclusive Society?
Social Exclusion and New Labour (1998, second edition 2005); Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain: The Millennium Survey (co-edited with Christina Pantazis and David Gordon). Plans are currently being finalised for a major ESRC-funded project to refine and repeat the 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey from 2010. Her current work on Utopia as Method will be also be funded by a Leverhulme Research fellowship from May 2010.