Mediocre Utopia

As a citizen of Utopia I feel it’s my duty to read what other people write about the place. I usually find myself wondering though, reading visitor’s accounts, if they got on the wrong train. Recently three books appeared which purport to describe the land of honey, and explain how to get there; Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman and Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams — which are on the ‘red’ end of the dissident spectrum — and Lean Logic by David Fleming — which is green or ‘neo-green’ (aka ‘doomer’). Here are my reviews of all three:



Bregman begins with what he calls ‘a little history lesson’ —

‘everything was worse. For roughly 99% of the world’s history, 99% of humanity was poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly.’

— which is the opposite of the truth. Poverty, hunger, ill-health, warfare and sense-dimming stupidity all began with what we call ‘civilisation’.

After ignoring just about all the actual facts of pre-history and anthropology Bregman goes on to make this amazing claim:

But in the last 200 years, all of that has changed. In just a fraction of the time that our species has clocked on this planet, billions of us are suddenly rich, well nourished, clean, safe, smart, healthy, and occasionally even beautiful. Where 94% of the world’s population still lived in extreme poverty in 1820, by 1981 that percentage had dropped to 44%, and now, just a few decades later, it is under 10%.

Yep, that’s right. We’ve arrived. We are living in an age of Biblical prophecies come true’. Check this out: ‘By the year 2013, six billion of the globe’s seven billion inhabitants owned a cell phone.’ It’s that good. But there’s more;

‘For a long time, the Land of Plenty was reserved for a small elite in the wealthy West. Those days are over. Since China has opened itself to capitalism, 700 million Chinese have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Africa, too, is fast shedding its reputation for economic devastation; the continent is now home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies… In most countries, the average IQ has gone up another three to five points every ten years, thanks chiefly to improved nutrition and education. Maybe this also explains how we’ve become so much more civilized, with the past decade rating as the most peaceful in all of world history.’

Does Bregman believe that more money actually makes us richer? Does he believe that raised IQ equates to intelligence? Is Bregman ignoring the 99% of world history for which there is no evidence of warfare? Is he relying on the same highly selective data set as Steven Pinker (the PRIO: see Herman and Peterson, 2014) on which to base his claim that the last ten years have been peaceful?


A few things seem to confuse Bregman though. Capitalism, he tells us, ‘is a fantastic engine for prosperity’ and yet, ‘ironically, medieval people were probably closer to achieving the contented idleness of the Land of Plenty than we are today.’ That’s odd isn’t it?

A slight lack of ‘contented idleness’ isn’t the only problem with the ‘fantastic engine’ though. There’s that pesky 10% for a start. Worse though:

‘The food industry supplies us with cheap garbage loaded with salt, sugar, and fat, putting us on the fast track to the doctor and dietitian. Advancing technologies are laying waste to ever more jobs, sending us back again to the job coach. And the ad industry encourages us to spend money we don’t have on junk we don’t need in order to impress people we can’t stand. Then we can go cry on our therapist’s shoulder. That’s the dystopia we are living in today.’

So it turns out that things are not so rosy after all. Our food isn’t quite up to scratch, we find it hard to get a job and we’re buying too many… I dunno what… phones?

After all this you might be wondering what planet Bregman is living on. You might ask yourself who this ‘we’ is that he speaks of, who ‘goes to the therapist when we’re sad, a dietitian when we’re overweight and a job coach when we’re out of work.’ You might conclude, after hearing Bregman tell you that this is, ‘a book for everyone living in the Land of Plenty,’ that this is a wealthy middle-class European who lives in an unreal bubble floating above the ocean of misery, meaninglessness and destruction that everyone else actually lives in, but which Bregman has no capacity to see and, therefore, say anything meaningful about.

And you’d almost be right. I nearly didn’t make it myself, but if you can put aside Bregman’s terrifying praise of genetic engineering, 3D printing and ‘rationally-directed’ economic planning by Artificial Intelligence, eventually you do find a reasonably cogent, if simplistic, argument for Universal Basic Income (UBI: giving everyone free money) and Open Borders.1

UBI is probably about as ‘realistic’ a ‘utopia’ as we can hope for within the constraints of the system as it is; and so, up to this point, the title of Bregman’s book is accurate. Beyond though, there is nothing. Bregman makes no mention of nature, of any culture in the past that actually worked or was worth living in, of any human being living or dead who might be described as a Utopian, of any Utopian philosophies, of great art or of the mighty Utopian heart and what prevents it from being experienced or realised.

UBI sounds nice and everything, but if Mark Zuckerburg is calling for it, not to mention one of Lucifer’s own, Milton Friedman, I venture to suggest there is cause to doubt how much it will help ordinary people.

INVENTING THE FUTURE by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams

UBI is also the cornerstone of Inventing the Future, but here we get a much more thorough treatment. For a start Srnicek and Williams (S&W) explain what kind of UBI we would need for it to serve its Utopian purpose: it would have to be unconditional (not means tested — which is inherently sadistic) and generous enough to meet all basic needs, or it would end up being, like housing benefit in the UK, just an indirect handout to capitalists.

Chances are it would end up that way anyway, however it was implemented, which — along with its power to diffuse revolt and eat up the industrial surplus that people are becoming too poor too consume — is why it is supported by neoliberals. UBI, a state handout, would drive up prices, eradicate subsidiary welfare, undermine social institutions and social programmes and, needless to say, do nothing to address the structural iniquities of capitalism. In fact it would create a vacuum which those with financial power in society could and would swiftly occupy.

But back to Inventing the Future. It begins with the authors’ criticisms of what they disparagingly call ‘folk politics’ — the occupy movement, for example, which successfully raised general awareness of inequality and created new networks of solidarity, but, S&W tell us, made no demands, refused representative links to other movements and relied on inefficient and ultimately exclusive forms of democratic decision-making (‘The general assemblies simply collapsed, often under the weight of exhaustion and boredom’), and this is [at least partly] why ultimately Occupy made very little long-term impact on the system. At least that’s what S&W say.

There may be a little truth here, but using the failure of leftist groups as an excuse to dismiss ‘folk politics’ is cheap indeed. Their denigrating tone towards the word folk itself is telling, as is their almost grudging admission that, okay, yes, I suppose we do need to start with small, unmediated, free groups. The central importance of local communal power is swept under the authors’ insistence that we must ‘vertically coordinate’, specialise and delegate; which is to say, create a strata of power (albeit one glossed over, no doubt, with some lovely socialist / syndicalist ideology) which can then lord it over the rest of us.

The authors make a very big deal out of making demands, but, first of all, demand from whom? The state? The market? The entire technocratic system is it? We’re going to make that monolith radically change, and change our lives… with demands!?

And then demand what? UBI, they say, is just one step in the journey towards a ‘post-capitalist’ world. What we also need, they tell us, is not just freedom from wage-slavery, but ‘full automation’ — which is to say a world in which all work is done by machines.

Without full automation, postcapitalist futures must necessarily choose between abundance at the expense of freedom (echoing the work-centricity of Soviet Russia) or freedom at the expense of abundance, represented by primitivist dystopias.

Despite being an anarcho-primitivist, I happen to like bicycles, washing machines and electric guitars, and sometimes even think it might be possible to live in a human world that produces such things. But ‘primitivist dystopia’? The authors give no citations for any genuinely primal society, nor any evidence whatsoever that ‘abundance’ is a concomitant of technical progress. In fact, like Bregman, they don’t seem to be interested in how humans have lived for most of history.

The idea of returning to the trees might be a bit silly — although I don’t know any anarcho-primitivists who seriously advocate this or have seriously tried to do it — but completely ignoring the lessons of the longest and sanest period in human history (which even Marx didn’t do), along with the superb criticisms of civilisation that anarchists and anarcho-primitivists have made — is even more foolish. Why would the authors do this? Here’s a clue…

The full development of synthetic freedom… requires a reconfiguration of the material world in accordance with the drive to expand our capacities for action. It demands experimentation with collective and technological augmentation, and a spirit that refuses to accept any barrier as natural and inevitable. Cyborg augmentations, artificial life, synthetic biology and technologically mediated reproduction are all examples of this elaboration.

Can’t see a problem there! ‘Augmenting’ the human body with high-tec prosthetics? Tinkering with genetics to produce fifty foot long salmon? Growing disease-free humans in vats? In fact not only disease free, but gender-free (‘synthetic forms of biological reproduction would enable a newfound equality between the sexes’). I’m sure all that’ll work out alright. After all there’s never been a problem before with humanity putting inordinate faith in machines and buggering around with natural processes.

There is no serious consideration, in Inventing the Future, of our horrifying record of intervention in natural processes, no criticism of excessive reliance on systems or tools, no apparent understanding of the intimate connection between capitalism and technology and no recognition that there might be some natural barriers that should never be crossed. The authors breezily tell us that everyone on the planet is going to be able to ‘act according to whatever [their] desires might become’. Yes — whatever the desire. A hundred lifetimes in a VR porn paradise while your IRL body wastes away? Creating energy sources that are ten-thousand times more potent than nuclear fission? Fancy ‘delegating cleaning the house and folding clothes to machines’? No problem! Can do! Will we need rare-earth metals, petrochemical-based products, erosive industrial production and ruinous global transport systems to allow everyone to do all this? Will a fully-automated world fall straight into the hands of precisely the same class of technocrats which now run the show? Will human autonomy, sensitivity or conviviality wither away as we hand over our entire lives to systems we can neither comprehend or meaningfully influence? Of course not! Where ever could you have got such a silly, retrograde notions?

And Srnicek and Williams have the temerity to call primal lifestyles dystopian.

But not everything will be done by machines:

On a technical level, machines today remain worse than humans at jobs involving creative work, highly flexible work, affective work and most tasks relying on tacit rather than explicit knowledge. The engineering problems involved in automating these tasks appear insurmountable for the next two decades (though similar claims were made about self-driving cars ten years ago), and a programme of full automation would aim to invest research money into overcoming these limits.

In twenty years we’ll have computers that can write beautiful symphonies and that can lovingly, gracefully care for the dying — at least those few poor ‘non-augmented’ souls who can still die. Intelligent, caring and creative machines, we are told, are both possible and desirable. Again, no mention of the devastating critiques that have been made of such assertions, no serious philosophical discussions here of creativity, consciousness or love. Why? Another clue:

There is no authentic human essence to be realised, no harmonious unity to be returned to, no unalienated humanity obscured by false mediations, no organic wholeness to be achieved.

And here we come to the central, disabling, hypocritical contradiction of Inventing the Future. Towards the end of the book, the authors tell us that;

Any elaboration of an alternative image of progress must inevitably face up to the problem of universalism – the idea that certain values, ideas and goals may hold across all cultures.

They point out that ‘the task today must be to knit together a new collective “we’” and that there is ‘no way to build meaningful solidarity in the absence of some common factor’ — and yet they have already it ruled out. We need ‘a common factor’, they say, and then, almost in the next breath, there is no such thing as ‘authentic human essence’. So where is the common factor to come from? Inauthentic human essence? Authentic inhuman essence?

In order to sidestep this problem they pull back from any meaningful discussion of human nature, love, psychological or artistic truth — genuine universals — and instead focus on anti-work politics. Again, as with Bregman, they might be right; UBI and freedom from wage-slavery could be a decent option for a coalition between feminist campaigners, anti-racist struggles, red dissidence, green activism, post-colonial movements and the middle and lower classes; and it could be a reasonable first step in freeing ourselves, externally, from the Iron Cage…

…but, even supposing that we could use UBI to free us from work. Then what? Moving backwards for S&W is not an option. They tell us that craft is unnecessary — perhaps even a hindrance — that gender complimentarity is a divisive burden (‘Feminists… have made significant gains in terms of pay equality, abortion rights and childcare policies, but these pale in comparison to projects for the total abolition of gender’), that (despite evidence to the contrary) post-disaster conditions do not represent ‘an improvement for the vast majority of the world’s population’ and that natural limits are quaint fictions. We are not to build the future on the past, they say, or on the present, but on the modern dream of ‘fully automated luxury communism’. We are not to live in an inherently healthy and educational society, but build caring, healing machines and focus on ‘pluralising the teaching of economics, reinvigorating the study of leftist economics and expanding popular economic literacy’ (quite the inspiring vision, no?). We are not to build a world in which waste, drudgery and alienation are impossible, but import our butter from New Zealand (better for the earth than growing it locally they tell us), embrace alienation (‘a mode of enablement’) and build more machines to clear up our waste. We are not (as with most red politics) to revolutionise our conscious awareness, our love-lives, or our internal reality — no discussion of such intensely present reality in Inventing the Future (‘naval-gazing’ is the usual term for such activity). We are not to become more creative, we are not to enjoy building beautiful homes, we are not to grow our own delicious food or write our own epic poems or design splendid raiment, we are not to care for and love each other — nope, machines must do all this. We’ll just sit back and, in the words of fully-automated luxury communist Aaron Bastani, enjoy our Cartier, MontBlanc and Chloe; with our orgy-porgies and centrifugal bumble puppies.

Srnicek and Williams conclude their infantile dream with:

We may always be trapped, but at least we can escape into better traps.

That’s Utopia is it? A better trap?

Bugger that.

LEAN LOGIC by David Fleming

Dr Fleming was a big cheese in the UK Green movement. He spent his life working on Lean Logic, a dictionary which aimed to kind of explain everything about everything. Sound familiar? Yeah; amazingly it came out at the same time as my Apocalypedia; although the similarities end there.

I’m going to ignore a large part of the book here, which is concerned with technical exposition of Fleming’s vision of green politics. I’m willing to accept that there are some good ideas buried in sections such as ‘Tradable energy quotas as response to outright fuel/energy shortages’, ‘Recovery-elastic resilience strategies’ and ‘The defining properties of complexity, modularity, complication and ecology’, but, firstly, I don’t see Utopia as being quite so fucking boring, and secondly, I’m more interested in the foundations these technical edifices are erected upon.

One of the earliest entries, Ad Hominem, contains the superficially reasonable, often-expressed view that ‘though my lifestyle may be regrettable, that does not mean my arguments are wrong, on the contrary…’ The idea here is that if you are not making intense rupturing love with your partner every day, if you are not bright with the intoxicated inhaling of reality, free of the sucking, distorting, madness of the false self or, at the very least, softly aware enough to see that false self or recover from its sabotage, then — no matter — you can still express meaningful truths about life. It’s to say, in effect, ‘well, I might be a wage-slave, afraid of freedom, unloving, deeply uncreative or asleep in a half-life — but what I have to say about wage-slavery, fear of freedom, the nature of love and creativity or how to live a full life is still worth listening to’. There’s a word for this — hypocrisy. Excusing it with ‘do what I say, not what I do’ has been the deceitful nostrum of priests since at least the seventeenth century.

We don’t call them priests now, we call them professionals — or in Fleming’s approving words, a ‘core of professional experts’. Dr Fleming (Oxbridge) is curiously unwilling to meaningfully critique the nature and implications of professionalism, or class, or institutionalisation. The psychological and spiritual consequences of growing up in middle-class houses, going to middle-class schools and doing middle-class jobs don’t seem to figure in his magnum opus for some reason. He picks his way through Anarchism and then spends one paragraph on what, I’m guessing, is his favoured system, ‘Cheirarchy’ — the rule of hands. No mention of worker control of surplus though, on freedom from or refusal of work, on real subversion or meaningful, radical action. Certainly nothing on any community that any dignified working class man or woman I’ve ever met would consent to be part of. Fleming’s Utopia is a tidy little English village in which doctors play football and everyone acts ever so sensibly.

Fleming has nothing negative to say about charity. Nothing critical about an action that is deeply embedded in the market-system (the philanthropy / charity industry), which is used to expiate guilt (similar to good old-fashioned priestly-mediated confession or indulgence) and which is catastrophically non-reciprocal. Such anti-communal behaviour would be given short shrift in a pre-civilised community, as it nearly always is by recipients of charity; neither of which Fleming pays much attention to. Fleming — pro-institution and unconcerned with class — does not intend to criticise civilisation — his survey of pre-civilised life is brief and trivial2 — but, rather, certain unpleasant and largely intellectual aspects of it.

Everything gets translated into intellect in Lean Logic — which is to say all vital words (what I call Q-words) are stripped of mystery, beauty and humanity. For Fleming ‘presence’, for example, does not mean living in the present, being at one with the present body, blended with the miraculous enormity of the context or the bright, strange, particular atmosphere of the moment. No — it means joining in. Present sir!

Likewise ‘spirit’ for Fleming has nothing to do with consciousness. In fact, to start with, he says it has nothing to do with the individual human at all! ‘If spirit exists anywhere, it’s in the natural ecology’, he says, then talks about the environment for a while, before backtracking on this and offering some exposition on ‘emotion’ (which is conflated with what I call feeling3). Fleming, like many of the green movement, places all concern, all hope, all intelligence in a sentimentalised nature (ah, the moors! the wild places! the wolves!) — divested of consciousness, transcendence and, ultimately, of meaning. It is the ecology of the comfortable, rural, propertied classes — bracing walks along the shore, learning crafts, giving TEDx lectures on distressed wood, chanting Norse myths around the campfire and nice, tidy, little co-operative communities in Cumbria.

Or take sex. Again, nothing of the shattering mystery of the actual experience — nor the appalling nightmare of what sex becomes when ego is involved (the distinction I make is between ‘sex’ and ‘making love’). For Fleming sex is ‘a gift’ (accompanied by the ridiculous, thoroughly demeaning, illustration of a woman pushing her tits up into a man’s face), a ‘power supply’ or an ‘energy’. I’ll pass over these platitudes and just note that Fleming here, as elsewhere, has nothing meaningful say about anything of real, personal, significance to men and women who want to live more fully or truthfully together.

Or take art. The closest Lean Logic comes to artistic truth is an extraordinarily superficial discussion of myth and story which is illustrated by reference to, of all things, Pride and Prejudice! Twice! Don’t get me wrong, I like Jane Austin, but is this the best Fleming could do? Elsewhere Shakespeare, Milton and Blake are quoted and there are a few fleeting references to Tolstoy, Whitman and others, but it seems a bit odd to me to talk about the narrative arts without seriously investigating Milton, for example, or Dostoyevsky, Hesse, Eschenbach, The PuranasThe Upanishads, The Gita, The Gospel of Thomas, any folk myths or those of pre-history. Fleming has, apparently, read the Tao te Ching, but he shows no sign of understanding it; incorrectly describing it as ‘confucian’, and then — like a true Confucian — reducing all its psychological insights to moralistic concepts. For Fleming narrative art is, essentially, moralistic, a way to express ideas that ordinary people are too thick to take literally — he makes much of the fact that story is non-literal (and, of course, that myths bind communities) but nothing of the psychological, spiritual or artistic truth that great myth endeavours to express.

‘Story is like a washing line: it is what is hanging from it that matters. The literal mind, seeing only the washing line, and never realising what it is for, leaves society unclothed, in a state of narrative deprivation.’

It’s worth unpicking this metaphor, or trying to. First of all it’s clumsy to the point of ridiculous: ‘Man sees only the washing line, never the clothes underneath’. or perhaps, ‘Man sees the washing line without realising he could dry his clothes on it’ — and this from someone who writes about the meaning and purpose of metaphor. But, form aside, what does it actually mean? What is a washing line? It’s a man-mind, mind-knowable, object. What are clothes? They are man-made, mind knowable objects. Thus, for Fleming, story is like an object which conceals a series of objects. Or perhaps; story is like a tool upon which hang superficial coverings — but the literal mind sees only the tool and leaves society uncovered. Uh huh.

Elsewhere Fleming warns that metaphor

…can have a useful function in communicating all forms of truth, but it is easy to abuse. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, the simple solution is to slip into metaphor.

You beat me to it Doc!

Truth — the reality of it — does not appear in Lean Logic. There is no meaningful discussion or expression of love, god, reality, childhood, madness, art or death. Love doesn’t appear in the index (neither does consciousness), god is discussed purely in terms of religion, which, like ‘ritual’, myth, presence and so on is largely subordinated to its communal function; even death is applied only to communities and ecosystems — not to the only person which will ever actually experience death. Finally, truth itself is defined as ‘a family of connections between statements and meanings’, which is to say relatively. Fleming tips his hat at various places to paradox and implicit knowledge, but his understanding of both is ponderously mind-graspable and his experience of non-relative states, demonstrably nil.

Ponderous, wordy, tell, tell, tell, tell, tell — barely a hint of show. There is nothing funny in Lean Logic. Nothing that gives you chills, nothing that makes you sparkle with delight, that gives you a fine erection or erotic pulses of vaginal delight, nothing that provides a deep, superdeep, life-enhancing ahhhhhhh of sublime unspeakable recognition, nothing shocking, horrifying or weird, nothing cute or charming, nothing but pages and pages and pages of exposition. It’s such a slog. How on earth can we prepare for the future without laughing with radical joy in the present? without snorting soup out of our nostrils? without feeling the radiant chaos of ineffable enthusiasm? Not possible.

Fleming moans about joylessness of course, and mentation, and excessive use of intellect — again as many middle-class greens do — all the while spreading his joyless, measuring, managing mind over every vital reality he touches. Take a look at this typically graceless definition of ‘implicit truth’

Implicit truth is the product of reflection about a person, a thing or an event. Two (or more) people may reach sharply different insights which may, however, all be true. They are different in that they are features of the landscape of the observers’ different cognitive homelands. One student may think about the cypress tree growing in the quadrangle in a quite different way from another student. Two interpretations of the same observations may be different, even contradictory, but both represent implicit truths.

What Fleming is talking about here is not truth, but facts — discrete, mind-knowable, relative perceptions and thoughts. This is why reading his prose is like wading through molasses. What the above passage is actually saying is; ‘behind describable (thinkable, cognitive) explicit facts lie describable (thinkable, cognitive) implicit facts’. There are the facts out there (in the quadrangle!), and I may think factually about them one way, and you may think factually about them another way, and that’s all there is to it.

Let me put this another way: Truth, for Fleming, is like a saucepan: it can contain beans or it can contain alphabetti spaghetti. The literal mind, seeing only the saucepan, misses the canned food you can conveniently heat in it.

Such nightmarish relativism, dressed up in ham-fisted exposition, is the True God of the comfortable (if despairing) bourgeois intellectual. Practically any book you read by well-off middle class green authors (and there are a lot) will come down to a ‘relationship within ourselves’, to exalted middle-class communities, to ecosystems or to that which can be measured, managed or ‘valued’. There may be talk of god, truth, quality, the ‘sacred’, ‘soul’ and so on — or the emphasis might be Buddhist or perhaps even atheist — but investigate what lies underneath the signposts and you’ll find that reality is ultimately understood relatively. There is, for Fleming and co, actually no such thing as truth, or quality, or beauty, or justice or unconditional love which are presented, ultimately, as subjective illusions or a collection of mind-knowable facts. A very useful view if you want to be a modern doctor, lawyer, writer, artist or academic. Not so useful if you want to live.


The problem with red and green dissidence, like the colours themselves, is that they are irreconcilable. On their own they are half-baked — socialist, anarchist or communist activism, usually working-class, is utterly futile without a radical inner revolution preceding it, and a green, ‘spiritual’ or folk movement, usually middle-class, gets nowhere without addressing class, work, inequality, politics and the practical needs of ordinary people. Mix the red and the green together, however, and you just get brown.

Both red and green writers call for ‘new art’, ‘new stories’, ‘new myths,’ ‘new visions’, ‘new utopias’ and ‘new universals’ — yet provide nothing of the kind. Their attachment to largely academic and professional relativism guarantees that the art, philosophy, myth and music produced by so-called progressives — the Utopia they call for — is bland, predictable and sectarian; which is to say, pornographic.

One of the most amazing things, I think, about all three of these books, is that they completely ignore the reality of sexual relationship or treat it with breathtakingly brevity and superficiality. So easy, isn’t it — not to mention convenient — to write a book about ‘the perfect society’ and ignore the one perfect society that all of us, at some point or another, can actually create.

But of course, you’ll have to decide for yourself. My own preferred Utopian guidebooks are by William Morris, Barry Long, Aldous Huxley and the more sensitive anthropologists who have visited pre-conquest tribes. These all have their problems of course (Morris is a bit stiff, Long a bit nutty, Huxley and primal societies a bit backwards) — but factual accuracy is not the point. If you read these, and decide they are inferior to those I have reviewed here, then fair enough. After we’ve achieved UBI or a network of craft guilds I think we’ll be parting company pretty quickly, but, look, it’s a nice day. Before we reach the crossroads we might as well share this stretch of the road don’t you think?


If you have enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my own Utopian Handbook: The Apocalypedia.


EDIT 1 (29th June 2017): I received a couple of emails from Shaun Chamberlin, the editor of Lean Logic, describing this review, unsurprisingly, as an ‘extensive misrepresentation’. Shaun usefully cleared up some factual errors I made, which I have now corrected, but persisted in asserting, over and over and over again, that ‘entire entries dedicated to the truth’ must mean that Fleming has actually addressed the truth.

Shaun said that he thought I was motivated by a need to provoke and that I didn’t like the book because it didn’t meet my closed-minded expectations of objective truth. Shaun, on the other hand, finds that ‘after deep meditation and connection with the source I am then called to try to apply the truths that ring through me in the complication of the world of separation and forms’.

You might find your own ‘connection with the source’ is as robust as Shaun’s and that, like him, you experience ‘chills, gasps and delights throughout’ Lean Logic, in which case, as I said to Shaun, we inhabit different universes, which no debate can reconcile. That said, it continues to be — in fact will forever be — the case that I haven’t read the entire massive book, so I am quite open to the idea that I have made other factual errors, or that there is some evidence in it that the author was once alive.

EDIT 2 (4th Nov 2017): This article has been slightly revised — towards a slightly harsher view of Srinicek and Williams. This is because I’m engaged in studying the history of anarchist thought and — again slightly, but significantly — revising my understanding of socialism, communism, syndicalism and so on. I’ll present these as part of one of my new books, or in the second half of the blog.


  1. For a more thorough socialist overview of the pros and cons of which try Angela Nagle’s ‘The Left’s Case Against Open Borders’ and a socialist response, ‘The Case Against “The Case Against Open Borders.”’ As an anarchist I’m completely opposed to any kind of borders, but all borders would have to come down to circumvent the problems that Nagle outlines
  2. In which the focus is, predictably, almost entirely on technique and community. There is also an extended discussion of non-reciprocity, in which charity is not criticised.
  3. Not that I expect Fleming to make my distinction of course — but that he makes no distinction is telling.