New Online Course: Social Transformation Beyond Pragmatism or Utopia




The ISE is excited to announce our second online course: Social Transformation Beyond Pragmatism or Utopia. Taught by long-time ISE affiliate Robert Ogman, this three-session seminar will explore the theoretical and practical dilemmas posed by the tension between utopia and pragmatism in Social Ecology’s political vision. The course will meet on Thursdays from 1-2:30 pm EST on April 26, May 3, and May 17 .

The first session focuses on dialectics as a dynamic way of thinking about historical change that offers an alternative to the static perspective of conventional reason. Reflecting on historical change as societal process, we will examine how latent potentialities – blocked or unripe in one historical period – are nurtured, mature, and eventually actualized in the birth of a new societal order. The discussions are informed by selected readings by Ernst Bloch and Murray Bookchin. Session two centers on how to think about political strategy within a specific historical conjuncture. We will focus on agency and social forces as engines of historical development which shape future social trajectories, and discuss Gramsci’s critique of both (economic) determinism and voluntarism. We will examine Rosa Luxemburg’s writings on reform versus revolution, and her attempt to go beyond this binary with the idea of a “revolutionary Realpolitik.” The third and final session returns to contemporary activism and political strategies. We will address various kinds of political engagement today, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of both “inside” and “outside” strategies, as well as potentials for constructive linkage. This section will spotlight David Harvey’s engagement with Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism, teasing out overlap and differences with his own “right to the city” politics.

The course format is a participatory seminar comprised of three sessions. Each will begin with a short introduction of the texts and central issues by the instructor, followed by facilitated discussions among participants. The aim is to develop new questions about common problems or dilemmas rather than provide simple and closed answers.

Registration costs $70, to reserve a spot contact us at and pay the enrollment fee here.