Slouching Toward Utopia is George Scialabba’s fifth collection from Pressed Wafer, following What Are Intellectuals Good For (2009), The Modern Predicament (2011), For the Republic (2013), and Low Dishonest Decades (2016). Like the others, Slouching Toward Utopia features trenchant commentary on contemporary politics and culture, couched in graceful and limpid prose. In addition to reviews of Samuel Huntington, Ivan Illich, Alexander Cockburn, and Mark Lilla, along with a dozen others, there is a symposium contribution on identity politics, two long interviews about intellectuals and American politics, and the title essay, a lecture offering an original meditation on how to get past the conventional wisdom about political morality and begin to at least stumble toward utopia.
Samuel Moyn has called George Scialabba “a national treasure of long standing” and “our preeminent chronicler of American public intellectuals,” and says that “this new collection of his inimitable essays and reviews is one every serious reader needs.” Art Goldhammer calls Slouching Toward Utopia “a collection of elegant, erudite, eminently humane meditations … that illuminate these dark days of the Republic with admirable intellectual rigor. [Scialabba’s] is a quiet voice that needs to be heard above the raucous cacophony that dominates our public space.” In his Foreword to Slouching Toward Utopia, Jedediah Purdy praises Scialabba for writing “lucidly about benightedness, vividly about purblindness, so that his essays and reviews show thought as a thing possible in a world that can seem a conspiracy against sense and reason.”
George worked for 35 years in building management at Harvard University in order to support his book-reviewing habit. When he retired in 2015, the city of Cambridge declared a “George Scialabba Day,” and Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, and others gathered to celebrate.