Martin Buber is most often remembered as a philosopher of dialogue and scholar of Hasidic tradition and tales. Emerging from his interest in the way humans relate through dialogue, Buber was also interested in the way humans relate socially.   His books appear in the collections of George Benello, E. F. Schumacher, Martha Shaw, the MANAS Journal, and the library's general collection.

Read a Schumacher Center newsletter from 1985 on Martin Buber here

Paths in Utopia is his interrogation of the history of the term “utopia” at a time in history (published in 1945) when the idealism of the Russian Revolution was fading away to the brute reality of Stalinism and World War II.

If socialism is to emerge from the blind-alley into which it has strayed, among other things the catchword “Utopian” must be cracked open and examined for its true content

The failure of the Russian Revolution to achieve its vision, for Buber, lay in its rejection of the fullness of vision created by a lineage of socialist or utopian thinkers that he traces through Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Landauer.

In contrast to Marx and Lenin he argues that the wisdom of utopian thinking is that a political revolution cannot create new forms of social relations, it can only set free forms extant in the present social relations of humans. Thus, the focus of the social reformer should be to strengthen the co-operative elements in society, namely communities and free associations.

Furthermore, in order for communities and free associations to build freedom and engender responsibility for one another, society must be highly decentralized. Any new order that is not sufficiently endowed with the spirit of communalism and free association will only become a new state, a new coercive imposition.

This leads Buber to see the true road to socialism in an organic construction of a society comprised of little societies stitched together through free associations.

We must begin, obviously, with the establishment of a vital peace ... and this primary objective cannot in its turn be reached by any devices of political organization, but only by the resolute will of all peoples to cultivate the territories and raw materials of our planet and govern its inhabitants, together.