By Chris Carlsson
AK Press, 2008, 278 pages, $18.95

Go to your local bookstore or buy online.

“What do you do?”

It’s a form of introduction. We memorize a name and job title over a quick handshake.

Our society unconsciously evaluates people in terms of their 9-to-5 jobs, as Chris Carlsson points out at the beginning of Nowtopia. He presents as an alternative a “new politics of work,” profiling people seeking fulfillment beyond the office.

Whether former dot-commers fleeing the “corporate pixel mines” or retired math teachers escaping to the Burning Man festival, Carlsson’s subjects share “a hunger for social experiences outside of the ‘normal’ economic constraints of earning, buying, and selling.”

Carlsson, one of the founders of the Critical Mass “bike-in” movement, tries to place his subjects in the context of capitalism. But he may be trying to accomplish too much—his examination of the proverbial middle class, peppered with references to Karl Marx, often comes off as disjointed and preachy.

That doesn’t detract, however, from his mission: to write about nowtopia, “a sensible, humane, and comfortable life for everyone,” a place that is both nowhere and everywhere, both now and still being built.