The Breaching Experiment: E.O.W.

Release notes

This album is based on Erik Olin Wright’s book Envisioning Real Utopias. The book is an example of what Wright called emancipatory social science, which is a brand of science that is explicitly aiming to present and analyze positive societal alternatives, and to theorize the transformation paths of such alternatives.


The album is dedicated to the memory of Erik Olin Wright; to all the social scientists who engage in studies of positive transformations rather than simply analyzing the negative effects of current social orders; and to all the activists who are working every day to forge such alternatives into reality.


Recorded at the Institute for Breaching Experiments in Linköping, Sweden, July-August 2019. All music and lyrics by Christian Ståhl. All instruments performed by Christian Ståhl, with the following exceptions:

  • Narration on Growth Machine by Doug Gross.
  • Narration on Real Utopias by Erik Olin Wright, from a lecture given at the ISA World Congress of Sociology in Yokohama, Japan, 2014, used with kind permission from the International Sociological Association.
  • Additional narration on Real Utopias by Markus der Schlagwerker, Monica Wise, Tom Wise, and Anna-Carin Fagerlind Ståhl.
  • Lead guitar by Marcus Borggren on tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

The lyrics for this album are freely imagined fantasies based on the theoretical and empirical arguments given in the book.

  1. Growth Machine summarizes Wright’s main critical points against capitalism, and is what can be considered a sociological diagnosis of problems under the current system. Wright is careful to point out that many of these criticisms are true also for other economic systems, which does not make their relevance in relation to capitalism less poignant.
  2. Elements of a Theory of Transformation outlines some of the aspects that any emancipatory social theory need to target, namely social reproduction; limits, gaps and contradictions in current systems; and trajectories for social change.
  3. Conform and Confirm focuses more closely on social reproduction.
  4. The Compass takes aim at Wright’s claim that any idea of social change needs a direction, which represents an ideal that any change can be assessed in relation to, Further, real utopias, in order to be considered real, needs to be desirable, viable and achievable.
  5. A Reality of Harms serves as an instrumental interlude before the album proceeds toward presenting three potential trajectories for social change.
  6. Rupture describes the revolutionary ideal of overthrowing the existing system and replacing it entirely with a more desirable order.
  7. Dandelions present an anarchistic ideal of building alternatives in the cracks of the current system.
  8. The Generic Swede presents the social democratic vision of an alliance or compromise between capitalism and policies of social equality.
  9. Real Utopias, finally, presents a summary of Wright’s arguments, along with fictive examples of alternatives to capitalism which are currently in existence in different parts of the world.


A printer-friendly file of these release notes 

A blog post about the release


A video for the song Conform and Confirm can be seen here: 


1. Growth Machine

I only live for where I stand

To work another day

It puts the wages in my hand

To buy my troubles away


I consume another spin

My creativity denied

In a game you cannot win

But it keeps me occupied


Exploit! Exploit!

You’ll get your market share

Exploit! Exploit!

I’ll tell you what is fair


A war on the organized

It’s all against all

Individual and atomized

My voice is a brawl


I’m at the end of the line

Where I feed the machine

Until it breaks my spine

And calls me welfare queen


Capitalism perpetuates eliminable forms of suffering and deficits in individual freedom and autonomy. It blocks the universalization of conditions for human flourishing, and violates principles of social justice. Capitalism has a bias toward consumerism, and the subsequent commodification of life threatens non-commercial values, such as spirituality and art. It is further environmentally destructive, and fuels militarism and imperialism in a world of nation states. In certain ways, capitalism is also inefficient, limits democracy and corrodes community.

What does a future cost?

How many barrels of oil?

You melt the permafrost

With subhuman toil


How many working lives

To build another tank

The stock market hives

Make a happy bank


Exploit! Exploit!

You’ll get your market share

Exploit! Exploit!

I’ll tell you what is fair


2. Elements of a Theory of Transformation

Look the structure in the eye

See what it makes you do

Shapes you like a bonsai

And makes your field of view


To see beyond the wall

You need to study the cracks

We make a unison brawl

On institutional backs


We have the key

To unlock change

In the debris

Of the middle range


Find the unpredictable

And ripen the conditions

Make the system indictable

And seize its positions


We have the key

3. Conform and Confirm

Bred for this world

Raised from the womb

All the thoughts that whirled

Sifted in the classroom


Put me under your spell

Your little protege

A subtle fuel cell

To learn the social play


A pattern routinised

Designed to reaffirm

A citizen baptized

Conform and confirm


Slugging through the field

Spreading my cultural cash

I am the orthodox shield

Against the norm backlash


A pattern routinised

Designed to reaffirm

A citizen baptized

Conform and confirm

4. The Compass

Somebody held you back

Your passion never nourished

A structural attack

Content but never flourished


If you haven’t had a chance

You cannot stand to blame

If you weren’t taught the dance

You couldn’t make your claim


We’re gonna turn it around

Our common social ground

We’re gonna turn it around

We are political bound






We have our heading

The needle pointing our way

The path we’re treading

I say come what may

I say come what may

5. A Reality of Harms


6. Rupture

You are nothing like me

Get out of my way

You petty bourgeoisie

Will fear the Labor Day


Your system is broken

Enough thought pollution

The word is spoken

The word is revolution


Wherever there is profit

You will sell me death

There is a way to stop it


You see us in the distance

Marching to our drum

We are the resistance

Our beat will make you numb


Wherever there is profit

You will sell me death

There is a way to stop it

7. Dandelions

We live inside the gaps

Broken out of the grid

Outside official maps

Keeping ourselves well hid

We don’t care about your apps

Wouldn’t work for your bid


Capital is flexing its muscles

We can barely see it from here

It’s on another flight to Brussels

To sell itself through the blogosphere


Don’t need no influencer

We’ve got Thoreau

And you can never censor

Our overthrow


Smell the soil on our hands

It is outside your reach

Where the millionaire stands

We cannot hear him preach

Free your mind, it expands

It’s a figure of speech


Don’t need no influencer

We’ve got Thoreau

And you can never censor

Our overthrow

8. The Generic Swede

Snap to the master grid

Regression to the mean

I am no conflict kid

Consensus cuisine


I think we have agreed

I’m the generic Swede


I’m on a morning flight

To Schiphol, Amsterdam

I’ve got my headphones right

A business diagram

We have our way of life

Two children and a car

No bitter class-based strife

Revolt seems so bizarre


A labor-profit creed

A peaceful life indeed

I’m the generic Swede


We’re proud and content

We have our compromise

Collective consent

In welfare to baptize


I think we have agreed

A peaceful life indeed

I’m the generic

9. Real Utopias

Voice 1: Participatory Budgeting

We all pay taxes, right? So, we should all have a say, and not just every four years when we elect someone we may or may not think will represent our interests. It’s us who live here who know what is needed in the community, whether we need to build a new school or make road repairs. Such projects are decided on a community level, and the budget process for the municipality is open to everyone who wants to have the insight or to express their opinions. This is realdemocracy at work. I haven’t heard a single complaint about having to pay taxes since the system was introduced - if anything, people are prepared to contribute more. Since we can see where all the money goes, there’s no opportunities for corruption. It makes everyone less suspicious.


Voice 2: Wage-Earner Funds

These days, we, the workers, have a direct say in whatever decisions that are made, and on the direction of the company. Since we’re all owners, we all want to do our very best and be on top of things. But it also means that profit isn’t all that matters. Of course, we need to balance the books, but making the best possible product and having the best workplace imaginable is considered more important. The capital owners simply have to accept that, since they are not the sole owners anymore. When you think about it, the way it used to be was a bad case of exploitation - the only voice I had was the threat to leave, which would only make another person fill my place. We’re all part of the family now, and a family cares for everyone. 

Voice 3: Cooperation Infrastructure

I work in a cooperative, where the main business is running markets for fresh vegetables and groceries. It’s a community, not just within the cooperative, but in the whole chain, our cooperation with other cooperatives. We have an infrastructure for production, transportation and front-end stores and markets, which connects through an online platform. The users, or customers, can also access the platform, so it’s a place for interaction with them too. It’s all very transparent and social in character, where we build trust by helping each other out whenever it’s needed. No one is in it for the money. The system as a whole reduces market pressure considerably - we don’t have to compete, which makes everything run more smoothly.


Voice 4: Universal Basic Income

Since the universal and unconditional basic income was introduced, I find myself thinking much less about money. Before, I was living on whatever low wage jobs I could find, or on unemployment benefits, since I never got my grades or made it to college. I still hook up with jobs from time to time whenever I need the extra money or when I feel like it, but mostly I do various sorts of community work or social work these days, unpaid. Or I scribble away at my novel which I’ve been working on for the past year. I think the basic income’s main advantage has been security. Especially in a time where the labor market is too precarious to offer that. I know I won’t starve, which enables me to pursue all kinds of things that I didn’t use to do, since it wouldn’t render an income.


This is real

These are real utopias