If maximising utility leads to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, as utilitarianism has always proposed, then why is it that as many of us currently maximise our utility—by working endlessly, undertaking further education and training, relentlessly marketing and selling ourselves—we are met with the steady worsening of collective social and economic conditions? In Futilitarianism: neoliberalism and the production of uselessness, social and political theorist Neil Vallelly (University of Otago) tells the story of how neoliberalism transformed the relationship between utility and the common good. The book at once maps the historical relationship between utilitarianism and capitalism, develops an original framework for understanding neoliberalism, and recounts the lived experience of uselessness in the early twenty-first century. In doing so, it shows that countering the futility of neoliberal existence is essential to building an egalitarian, sustainable, and hopeful future.

Futilitarianism is published in November as part of the PERC series with Goldsmiths Press. PERC Director Will Davies will facilitate an online discussion about the book with the author Neil Vallelly and the following speakers

William Callison, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University

Meagan Day, Editor at Jacobin and co-author of Bigger than Bernie

Keir Milburn, Author of Generation Left

Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor Emerita of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London


Advance praise for Futilitarianism

“With an elegant pen, reader-friendly philosophical thoughtfulness, and scores of examples, Vallelly explains that gnawing feeling: ‘isn’t what I’m doing—in my job, ecological practices, ethical consumerism and more—really futile?’ Becoming-common, he argues, is our only way out.”

– Wendy Brown, author of In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West


“This original and compelling tour de force is essential reading for anyone who thinks that there must be more to life than this.”

– Jessica Whyte, author of The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism


“What Vallelly achieves here is a remarkable new theoretical insight into why… utilitarianism under neoliberal capitalism must mutate into futilitarianism. A thoroughly welcome, timely and profound intervention.”

– Richard Seymour, author of The Twittering Machine